The vehicles which will fill the void left by the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet for low-Earth orbit and ISS crew transport, the Boeing CST-100 and Dragon V2 space capsules. Photo: Boeing / Robert Fisher / AmericaSpace
In 2010, with the retirement of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program coming to a close, the space agency began the Commercial Crew Program to stimulate development of privately built and operated American-made space vehicles for transporting astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). Since the final shuttle landed in 2011 America has been forced to buy seats to and from the orbiting outpost from Russia, at a cost of over $70 million, PER seat. Now, after over 4 years of testing, development and waiting, NASA today announced the selection of Boeing’s CST-100 space capsule and SpaceX’s Dragon V2 space capsule to replace the agency’s now retired space shuttle fleet for flying astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the ISS no later than 2017.
Continue reading Boeing and SpaceX Awarded Contracts to Fill The Void Left by NASA’s Retired Space Shuttles
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils world’s largest spacecraft welder to begin construction of 1st core stage of NASA’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket at NASA Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2014. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built by humans. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/AmericaSpace
MICHOUD ASSEMBLY FACILITY, NEW ORLEANS, LA – The first step on NASA’s ‘Humans to Mars’ objective has begun with the start of construction of the first core stage fuel tank of the agency’s colossal Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will one day propel astronauts to the Red Planet.
The high tech marvel of machinery that will weld and integrate the initial elements of the SLS rockets very first core stage is now ‘open for business’ following a marquee ‘grand opening’ ceremony headlined by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014 at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans where the stage is being manufactured. AmericaSpace was on hand for the milestone event and toured the Michoud facility. See our photos herein.
Continue reading NASA’s SLS Human Rocket Road to Mars Starts Here and Now – at Michoud and Mississippi!
Landing site J, marked by the white + sign, on the head of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
A landing site has now been chosen for the Rosetta spacecraft’s lander, Philae, on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, it was announced this morning. After several candidate landing sites had been considered, site J has now been selected for the daring landing later in November. It will be the first-ever attempt to actually land on a comet.
Continue reading Landing Site Selected for First-Ever Attempt to Land On a Comet
The CLIO mission will be delivered into orbit on the 25th flight of an Atlas V booster. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 16 September. Image Credit: ULA
When United Launch Alliance (ULA) delivers its 25th Atlas V 401 vehicle—and its 60th overall mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.—into orbit on the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 September, it will undoubtedly represent one of the quietest and most secretive launches of 2014. Liftoff is presently planned to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 during a 146-minute “window,” which opens at 5:44 p.m. EDT, and the primary payload for the mission is a mysterious spacecraft, known only as “CLIO.” Developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Skunk Works, on behalf of an unnamed U.S. Government Agency, CLIO is reportedly based upon commercial technology and its design is centered around the proven A2100 satellite bus. “It is highly unusual that no agency claims ownership of a satellite,” admitted Spaceflight101. “Even the National Reconnaissance Office, operating American spy satellites, publicly announces its launches in advance.”
Continue reading ULA Aims for Top-Secret CLIO Launch on Tuesday, 16 September
Discovery rockets into orbit on 12 September 1991 to begin a five-day mission to deploy the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS). Photo Credit: NASA
Late in September 2011, the skies above the Pacific Ocean were illuminated by an astonishing—though not unexpected—fire show. NASA’s 13,000-pound (5,900-kg) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), launched two decades earlier, this week in September 1991, returned to Earth in a blaze of glowing debris, with the remnants splashing down in a remote stretch of the Pacific. Originally anticipated to operate for just two years, the UARS mission was extended several times and even when budget cuts forced it to be decommissioned in June 2005 no less than six of its nine instruments were still fully functional. Its orbit was slightly lowered by flight controllers in December 2005, in anticipation of an eventual destructive re-entry, and in October 2010 the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was obliged to perform a debris avoidance maneuver in response to a conjunction with the aging satellite. Its eventual descent to Earth on 24 September of the following year brought a rather high-profile closure to a mission which had proven instrumental in changing our perception of the Home Planet.
Continue reading ‘To Make Sure We Didn’t Make the News': The High-Altitude Mission of STS-48 (Part 2)
Titan’s colorful globe passes in front of Saturn and its rings, in this true color image taken in 2011 from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The moon’s opaque atmosphere hides a fascinating surface that is rich in methane lakes, water ice, and organic compounds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
“On Titan, the molecules that have been raining down like manna from heaven for the last 4 billion years might still be there, largely unaltered, deep-frozen, awaiting the chemists from Earth.”
— Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space” (1997)
You are standing on a shoreline peppered with small rounded rocks, watching the distant mountains on the horizon. Despite the dimly lit scenery and the thick smog that hangs in the air, you can detect clouds forming over those mountain tops that will soon develop into a raging rainstorm. Far from all this atmospheric fury, you enjoy the sight of the hundreds of small lakes around you which extend as far as the eye can see, unperturbed by the gentle breeze that blows through the landscape.
Continue reading Living On the Edge: The Mysterious Lakes of Titan (Part 4)
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is readied for deployment by Discovery’s Remote Manipulator System (RMS) mechanical arm, early in the STS-48 mission. Photo Credit: NASA
Late in September 2011, the skies above the Pacific Ocean were illuminated by an astonishing, though not unexpected, fire show. NASA’s 13,000-pound (5,900-kg) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), launched two decades earlier—this week in September 1991—returned to Earth in a blaze of glowing debris, with the remnants splashing down in a remote stretch of the Pacific. Originally anticipated to operate for just two years, the UARS mission was extended several times, and even when budget cuts forced it to be decommissioned in June 2005 no less than six of its nine instruments were still fully functional. Its orbit was slightly lowered by flight controllers in December 2005, in anticipation of an eventual destructive re-entry, and in October 2010 the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was obliged to perform a debris avoidance maneuver in response to a conjunction with the aging satellite. Its eventual descent to Earth on 24 September of the following year brought a rather high-profile closure to a mission which had proven instrumental in changing our perception of the Home Planet.
Continue reading ‘Gentlemen’s Hours': The High-Altitude Mission of STS-48 (Part 1)
From the European Space Agency (ESA): “Using the CIVA camera on Rosetta’s Philae lander, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.” Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
You may have taken a selfie before, but not one quite as cool as this: This week in Rosetta news, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) comet-orbiting spacecraft took an incredible “selfie” of sorts at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Continue reading Rosetta Update: Spacecraft Takes ‘Selfie’ by Comet Team Determines Landing Site
Former NASA astronaut and Expedition Three Mission Commander Frank L. Culbertson is seen here in the U.S. Laboratory/Destiny on the ISS. Culbertson had a unique perspective on 9/11, as he was the only American not on the planet during the tragic events of that day. Instead, he watched the towers fall from 250 miles above, and this week the former astronaut opens up about his experience watching it all unfold from space. Photo Credit: NASA
On Sept. 11, 2001, one single American was not living on planet Earth. From a place of silence and isolation, he witnessed the chaos and tragedy that terrorism unleashed on our nation, using commercial airliners as missiles to destroy the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and another flight, which crashed in Pennsylvania, claiming thousands of innocent lives in cold blood. The International Space Station (ISS) and Expedition 3 crew were orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, and NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson, Commander of that mission, is recounting his experience watching it all unfold from 250 miles high.
Continue reading Only American Not on Earth on 9/11 Shares Experience of the Tragedy From ISS
The Expedition 40 crew patch, emblazoned with the surnames of the U.S.-Russian-German crew. Image Credit: NASA
After 169 days in space, more than 2,700 orbits of Earth and 71.7 million miles (115.4 million km) traveled, the Soyuz TMA-12M crew of U.S. astronaut Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev have returned safely to Earth, touching down to the southeast of the remote Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan. Initial examinations of the three men have confirmed that they are healthy in the aftermath of more than five months of weightlessness. Swanson will return via a Gulfstream III aircraft to Ellington Field, near Houston, Texas, whilst Skvortsov and Artemyev will fly back to the Star City cosmonauts’ training center on the forested outskirts of Moscow.
Continue reading Soyuz TMA-12M Lands Safely, Concluding 169-Day Mission