AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch ATV-5 on a Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana scheduled for 29 Jul 14 23:47:38 GMT

Days
Hrs
Min
Sec
Click here for more details...

Enter your email address to subscribe to AmericaSpace and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Popular Astronaut Mike Massimino Departs NASA for Position at Columbia University

NASA Astronauy Mike Massimino in the space shuttle Columbia during his first mission to repair the Hubble  Space Telescope in March 2002. Massimino is returning to his Alma mater, Columbia University, for a full time position. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA Astronauy Mike Massimino onboard the space shuttle Columbia during his first mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope in March 2002. Massimino left the space agency this week and returning to his Alma mater, Columbia University, for a full time position. Photo Credit: NASA

This week, after nearly two decades with NASA, one of the space agency’s most popular astronauts, Mike Massimino, announced his departure to take a full time position at his Alma Mater, Columbia University in New York. 

Continue reading Popular Astronaut Mike Massimino Departs NASA for Position at Columbia University

Long-Delayed AFSPC-4 Mission Boosted into Orbit Atop Delta IV Rocket

Stunning view of the Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle boosting the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-4 mission into near-geosynchronous orbit on Monday, 28 July. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

Stunning view of the Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle boosting the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-4 mission into near-geosynchronous orbit on Monday, 28 July. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

After four fruitless attempts, scuppered on Wednesday by Ground Support Equipment (GSE) issues and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday by appalling weather conditions in the Cape Canaveral area, United Launch Alliance (ULA) demonstrated Monday night that good things definitely come to those who wait, when it successfully launched its long-delayed Delta IV booster to deliver three critical situational awareness satellites into near-geosynchronous orbit on behalf of the U.S. Air Force. Liftoff of the Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) vehicle—numerically designated to identify a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) Payload Attach Fitting (PAF) and the presence of two solid-fueled Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM)-60—took place at 7:28:00 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., about 45 minutes into Monday’s 65-minute “window”. As was expected, the mission entered a media blackout, shortly after the separation of the payload fairing, due to the military nature of its satellite cargoes.

Continue reading Long-Delayed AFSPC-4 Mission Boosted into Orbit Atop Delta IV Rocket

Behold Enceladus: Cassini Maps 101 Geysers on Tiny Saturn Moon

The geysers of Enceladus, as seen by Cassini. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

The geysers at the south pole of Enceladus, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is already known as one of the most intriguing places in our solar system, and now new findings from the Cassini spacecraft have been published, which will only add to our fascination with this little world.

Continue reading Behold Enceladus: Cassini Maps 101 Geysers on Tiny Saturn Moon

Europe's Final ATV Cargo Ship to Launch Tuesday Atop Ariane 5 Booster

Technicians load cargo aboard the fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) at the Guiana Space Centre in March 2014. Photo Credit: ESA

Technicians load cargo aboard the fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) at the Guiana Space Centre in March 2014. Photo Credit: ESA

A giant Ariane 5 booster stands ready at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, awaiting a nocturnal liftoff at precisely 8:47:38 p.m. local time (7:47:38 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, 29 July, to deliver the European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) to provide equipment and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Originally scheduled to fly on 24 July, the mission was postponed by several days to permit what Arianespace—the Paris, France-based launch services organization—described as “complementary verifications on the Ariane 5 launch system.” That work has now been completed, and on Tuesday, 22 July, Arianespace announced the revised launch date. Assuming an on-time liftoff, ATV-5 will dock at the aft longitudinal port of the station’s Zvezda module on 12 August and is expected to remain until late January 2015.

Continue reading Europe’s Final ATV Cargo Ship to Launch Tuesday Atop Ariane 5 Booster

Astronomers Discover First Ice Giant Exoplanet Candidate in Long-Period Orbit

This artist's concept shows Kepler-421b, a Uranus-sized transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, circling its star once every 704 days. Kepler-421b orbits an orange, K-type star that is cooler and dimmer than our Sun and is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Image Credit/Caption: Harvard-Smithsonian, Center for Astrophysics/D. A. Aguilar

This artist’s concept shows Kepler-421b, a Uranus-sized transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, circling its star once every 704 days. Kepler-421b orbits an orange, K-type star that is cooler and dimmer than our Sun and is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Image Credit/Caption: Harvard-Smithsonian, Center for Astrophysics/D. A. Aguilar

With new exoplanet discoveries announced almost at a monthly basis, it is no surprise that only those that involve potentially Earth-like, habitable worlds mostly manage to grab the headlines. Yet, as exoplanetary research has shown, even the ones that do not fit that bill are fascinating in their own right, offering a great insight into the processes that drive planetary formation and evolution. Such is the case with the discovery of the first Uranus-sized exoplanet candidate in a stable long-period orbit that was announced earlier this week, which could be similar to the ice giants of our own Solar System.

Continue reading Astronomers Discover First Ice Giant Exoplanet Candidate in Long-Period Orbit

NASA Realigns Red Planet Armada to Reap Science Bonanza During Upcoming Comet Flyby and Protect Priceless Probes

This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, 2014 the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers).   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the Sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, 2014, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earth’s invasion fleet at Mars is about to experience an unprecedented close encounter with a new cometary visitor this fall, and NASA is implementing a multi-pronged strategy that’s simultaneously aimed at reaping an unexpected scientific bonanza while also protecting its priceless orbiting armada from “Gravity” like destruction from a trail of hurtling space debris.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is swinging around the Sun and heading toward an extremely close flyby with the Red Planet on Oct. 19, 2014. See the flyby graphics and animation above and below.

Continue reading NASA Realigns Red Planet Armada to Reap Science Bonanza During Upcoming Comet Flyby and Protect Priceless Probes

'Whatever Was Needed': 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 2)

Columbia roars into the darkened Florida sky at 12:31 a.m. EDT on 23 July 1999. It would be one of the most hazardous launch phases in shuttle history. Photo Credit: NASA

Columbia roars into the darkened Florida sky at 12:31 a.m. EDT on 23 July 1999. It would be one of the most hazardous launch phases in shuttle history. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifteen years ago, this week, the first woman ever to lead a space mission was launched aboard Shuttle Columbia to deliver NASA’s $1.5 billion Chandra X-ray Observatory—the third of a quartet of “Great Observatories” to observe the Universe across most of the electromagnetic spectrum—into a highly elliptical orbit. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the demands of Eileen Collins’ STS-93 mission were fraught with risk; risk which she and her crewmates, Jeff Ashby, Catherine “Cady” Coleman, Steve Hawley, and Frenchman Michel Tognini, were keenly aware of. However, as their July 1999 liftoff drew nearer, they intuitively knew that rising from Earth into orbit was arguably the most hazardous journey of any mission. Not until they actually began that journey, however, would they truly realize how hazardous it really was.  

Continue reading ‘Whatever Was Needed’: 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 2)

'Making Superman Jealous': 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 1)

Eileen Collins, the first female spacecraft commander in history, floats in Columbia's middeck, 15 years ago this week. Photo Credit: NASA

Eileen Collins, the first female spacecraft commander in history, floats in Columbia’s middeck, 15 years ago this week. Photo Credit: NASA

“It’s great to be back in zero-g again,” said STS-93 commander Eileen Collins, early on 23 July 1999, as she and her four crewmates set about preparing the Shuttle Columbia for five days of orbital activities, but added darkly that “a few things to work on ascent kept it interesting.” Those things, within seconds of liftoff, almost forced Collins—the first woman to command a space mission, 15 years ago, this week—to perform a hair-raising abort landing back at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and the incident effectively grounded the shuttle fleet for almost six months.

Continue reading ‘Making Superman Jealous’: 15 Years Since the First Female Shuttle Commander (Part 1)

Progress M-24M Delivers 2014's Third Batch of Russian Supplies to Space Station

Progress M-24M approaches its docking with the International Space Station (ISS), less than six hours after departing Baikonur. Photo Credit: NASA

Progress M-24M approaches its docking with the International Space Station (ISS), less than six hours after departing Baikonur. Photo Credit: NASA

Less than six hours after departing Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia’s Progress M-24M cargo craft successfully docked automatically at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Pirs module at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The spacecraft brought approximately 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of equipment, supplies, and experiments to the station’s incumbent Expedition 40 crew—which consists of Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and Maksim Surayev, U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman, and Germany’s Alexander Gerst, under the command of U.S. astronaut Steve Swanson—and will remain in place through late October. At the time of docking, the ISS and Progress M-24M were orbiting about 259 miles (418 km) over the Pacific Ocean, just off the western coast of South America.

Continue reading Progress M-24M Delivers 2014′s Third Batch of Russian Supplies to Space Station

NASA Solicits Commercial Mars Telecom Relay Proposals to Avoid Science Transmission Gap

Artist rendering of commercial Mars satellites providing communications back to Earth.  Credit: NASA/JPL

Artist rendering of commercial Mars satellites providing communications back to Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL

Facing the undeniable reality of a looming communications gap in the 2020s in getting gigabits of precious data back from NASA’s highly productive science armada exploring Mars, the agency is now soliciting information on the potential for utilizing commercial Mars-orbiting telecommunications satellites to provide transmission capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet. And this could also be useful for Humans to Mars missions in the longer term.

“We are primarily interested in communications coverage starting in the 2020s,” Lisa May, Lead Program Executive, Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, told AmericaSpace exclusively in response to my questions about NASA’s timing and requirements.

Continue reading NASA Solicits Commercial Mars Telecom Relay Proposals to Avoid Science Transmission Gap