Derived from a vehicle which has accomplished more than 1,800 launches since the mid-1960s, the Soyuz vehicle is one of the world’s most reliable rockets. Photo Credit: Arianespace
Following a 24-hour postponement, caused by poor weather conditions in the vicinity of the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, Arianespace has successfully launched its ninth Soyuz vehicle on a historic mission to deliver the first pair of Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC-1) navigational satellites into orbit. Liftoff took place at 9:27:11 a.m. GFT (8:27:11 a.m. EDT) Friday, 22 August, from the Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz (ELS) zone, close to the French Guianese coastal town and commune of Sinnamary. All aspects of the ascent phase ran smoothly and the Galileo twins—named “Doresa” and “Milena”, in honor of German and Estonian children, who won a 2011 European Commission art competition—were successfully deployed into a medium orbit of about 14,600 miles (23,520 km) a little under four hours later.
Continue reading Arianespace Launches First Pair of Fully Operational Galileo Satellites
An artist’s rendition of MAVEN at Mars. Image Credit: NASA / GSFC
The spacecraft tasked with carrying out NASA’s first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere is now just 30 days out from the Red Planet, having so far covered 405 million miles over the last nine months, as it quietly cruises the void between our worlds at over 16 miles per second (Earth-centered velocity). Now, with over 90 percent of the long journey completed, and all of the spacecraft’s instruments operating nominally, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, is on track for Mars orbit insertion (MOI) at 10:00 p.m. EDT on Sept. 21.
Continue reading MAVEN’s Half-Billion-Mile Journey to Mars Now 30 Days Out From Red Planet
From NASA: “A view looking down from one of the higher levels in the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB, reveals High Bay 3 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Modifications are underway in the VAB to prepare High Bay 3 for a new platform system.” Photo Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
For anyone who has made the journey to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the view is unforgettable. As one drives along NASA Causeway (past the lush trees and, sometimes, alligators), the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, formerly the Vertical Assembly Building)—one of Florida’s largest buildings at a staggering height of 525 feet—comes into sight, resplendent with its American flag and “meatball” logo. For many, the VAB represents the ingenuity of the American space program.
Completed in 1965, the building was the home of Saturn V rockets and space shuttle stacks well before the vehicles left their launch pads. Now, the VAB is getting ready for NASA’s next-generation spacecraft and launch vehicles, as it undergoes modifications for the Orion/Space Launch System (SLS) program.
Continue reading KSC’s Iconic Vehicle Assembly Building Undergoing Renovations for Orion/SLS
Mosaic image showing Saturn backlit by the Sun, one of the most beautiful photographs sent back by Cassini. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The origin of Saturn’s rings has been one of the most interesting puzzles in planetary science, and now new data from the Cassini spacecraft is helping to fill in the pieces, showing that the majestic ring system is very ancient, probably as old as Saturn itself.
Continue reading Space Dust Indicates Ancient Origin for Saturn’s Rings
SNC’s Commercial Dream Chaser atmospheric test vehicle under construction. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)
Construction of the first commercial Dream Chaser space plane that will propel Americans back to space from American soil is well underway and accelerating to insure “its ready for the first launch in November 2016,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems, told AmericaSpace in Part 2 of our exclusive, one-on-one interview about their human spaceflight efforts to build a credible and affordable astronaut taxi for NASA.
“We have been laying the foundation with many relationships. And we are working on a global basis,” Sirangelo emphasized. “All the elements are there and they are tangible and touchable, not theoretical.”
Continue reading First Private Dream Chaser Construction Pace Accelerates Toward 2016 Maiden Blastoff: One-on-One Interview With SNC VP Mark Sirangelo (Part 2)
The supernova SN 2014J, as imaged by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This image contains Chandra data, where low-, medium-, and high-energy X-rays are red, green, and blue respectively. The boxes in the bottom of the image show close-up views of the region around the supernova in data taken prior to the explosion (left), as well as data gathered on Feb. 3, 2014, after the supernova went off (right). The non-detection of X-rays by Chandra is an important clue for astronomers looking for the exact mechanism of how this star exploded. Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/R.Margutti et al.
During a brief observing session in the afternoon hours of 21 January 2014, Dr. Steve Fossey and a team of undergraduate students at the University of London Observatory discovered quite by chance a very bright supernova explosion in the nearby starburst galaxy M82. In the weeks following its appearance, the supernova, named SN 2014J, became the subject of an intense multi-wavelength study, allowing astronomers worldwide to trace its evolution using an assortment of ground- and space-based telescopes. Yet, contrary to theoretical predictions regarding the causes behind this particular type of stellar explosions, a series of observations made with NASA’s Chandra and Swift space telescopes surprisingly revealed that SN 2014J exhibited no emission at X-ray wavelengths at all, leading astronomers to put further constrains on the possible formation scenarios of these types of cataclysmic cosmic events.
Continue reading Where’s the Kaboom? Astronomers Detect No X-Ray Emission From Recent Supernova Explosion
A hot-fire test of a joint NASA/Aerojet Rocketdyne 3D-printed rocket engine injector at the space agency’s Glenn Research Center. Aerojet was recently awarded a defense contract for large-scale, 3-D printing to develop liquid rocket engine applications for national security space launch services. Photo Credit: NASA/GRC
Last June, leading rocket propulsion manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests with a liquid oxygen/kerosene Baby Bantam demonstration engine—an engine that was entirely constructed with 3-D printing. It was the first rocket engine to be entirely constructed with 3-D printing, and this week that work helped secure Aerojet the award of a defense contract by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (through the Defense Production Act Title III Office) for large-scale additive manufacturing development (also known as 3-D printing) and demonstration.
Continue reading Aerojet Rocketdyne Awarded Large-Scale 3-D Printing Defense Contract to Develop Liquid Rocket Engine Applications
Voyager 2 begins its journey of exploration, 37 years ago today (20 August), with a rousing liftoff atop a Titan IIIE-Centaur booster from Launch Complex (LC)-41 at Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: NASA
A quarter-century ago, this week, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft became the first machine fashioned by human hands to travel close to the giant planet Neptune. It was a stunning finale to a 12-year voyage, which had also featured encounters with three other gaseous worlds—Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus—and the adventure continues to the present day as Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, explore the outer reaches of the Solar System and the first wisps of conditions beyond. Yet today (20 August) is a special date in Voyager 2’s history, for it was on this day, in 1977, that the spacecraft parted company with its planet of origin for the final time and set sail for the stars. Two weeks later, on 5 September, Voyager 1 followed. Their launches and early weeks of operations were filled with drama and provided a fitting prelude for the exciting missions which were to come.
Continue reading A Troubled Start to a Triumphant Mission: 37 Years Since the Launch of the Voyagers
Black holes can’t be observed directly, but the heated gasses surrounding them can, as they emit X-rays. Image Credit: NASA/Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital
Black holes are one of the most unusual and fascinating phenomena in nature, and now astronomers are learning more about a peculiar type of black hole, thanks to archived data from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite. The black hole, called M82 X-1, is about 12 million light-years away and one of only a few known medium-sized black holes.
Continue reading Astronomers Observe the Rhythm of Rare Type of Black Hole
Attached to their Swedish-built payload dispenser, the Galileo FOC-1 twins are prepared for launch. Photo Credit: Arianespace
Less than three years since it became the first non-Russian organization to deliver a Soyuz booster into orbit from a location outside the borders of Russia or the former Soviet Union, Arianespace—the Paris, France-headquartered provider of commercial launch services from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana—is set to deliver the first pair of Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC-1) satellites on Thursday, 21 August. Operating from a “medium” Earth orbit, with a mean altitude of 14,600 miles (23,520 km), they will form part of an eventual 30-satellite global navigational constellation, developed under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) and conducted under the auspices of the European Commission. Liftoff of the three-stage Soyuz vehicle, which is also equipped with a Fregat upper stage, is targeted to occur from Kourou’s Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz (ELS) complex at 9:31:14 a.m. GFT (8:31:14 a.m. EDT) and the two satellites should be delivered precisely into orbit a little under three hours and 48 minutes after launch.
Continue reading Europe’s Answer to GPS: Galileo Program Set for Full Operational Capability With Thursday Launch of Doresa and Milena