AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch GPS IIF-8 on a Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
29 Oct 14 17:21:00 GMT
29 Oct 14 13:21:00 EDT

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The Case of the Exocomets Around Beta Pictoris

An artist’s impression showing exocomets orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. After analyzing archival observations that had been made with the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers have discovered two families of exocomets around this nearby young star. Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

An artist’s impression showing exocomets orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. After analyzing archival observations that had been made with the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers have discovered two families of exocomets around this nearby young star. Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

With the recent close fly by of comet Siding Spring from the surface of Mars and the upcoming landing of Rosetta’s Philae lander on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, comets have taken center stage during the last few months. Yet, not all of the action surrounding these small cosmic ‘dirty snowballs’ is limited to our side of the galaxy only. Akin to the discovery of exoplanets, exocomets have also been detected orbiting other stars as well, like 49 Ceti, Eta Corvi and HD 100546. Around one of these stars, called Beta Pictoris, hundreds of exocomets are constantly producing large amounts of gas and dust through a perpetual process of collision and evaporation, providing astronomers with a valuable insight into the similar processes that have taken place during the early days of our own Solar System.

Continue reading The Case of the Exocomets Around Beta Pictoris

ULA Successfully Delivers GPS IIF-8 into Orbit on 50th Atlas V Mission

The Atlas V's Russian-built RD-180 engine ramps up to full power, ahead of a perfect liftoff at 1:21 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 29 October. The launch came just 19 hours after Tuesday's Antares failure. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

The Atlas V’s Russian-built RD-180 engine ramps up to full power, ahead of a perfect liftoff at 1:21 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 29 October. The launch came just 19 hours after Tuesday’s Antares failure. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

As the dust settled at Wallops Island, Va., following yesterday’s catastrophic loss of Orbital Sciences’ fifth Antares booster—carrying the ORB-3 Cygnus cargo ship, bound for the International Space Station (ISS)—the effort to continue delivering U.S. launch vehicles into space continued unabated today (Wednesday, 29 October), with the successful 50th flight of an Atlas V. Liftoff of the venerable Atlas, which is operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), took place precisely on time at 1:21 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., approximately 870 miles (1,400 km) to the south of Wallops. The mission lasted 3.5 hours and perfectly inserted the eighth satellite of the Block IIF Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation into a medium Earth orbit, at an altitude of 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km), where it will provide critical positioning, velocity and timing assets for worldwide users.

Continue reading ULA Successfully Delivers GPS IIF-8 into Orbit on 50th Atlas V Mission

Investigators Complete Initial Assessment in Aftermath of Antares Explosion

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28.  Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28.
Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Incident Response Team completed their initial assessment of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island today, only 24 hours after the launch of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded just seconds after leaving its seaside launch pad to resupply the International Space Station and its crew Tuesday evening. Today’s assessment gave investigators their first real look at the damage caused to property, infrastructure and environment, but it will take weeks, and likely even months, before the investigation gives NASA and Orbital Sciences a better understanding of what exactly went wrong and how the catastrophic explosion has impacted the surrounding environment.

Continue reading Investigators Complete Initial Assessment in Aftermath of Antares Explosion

PRESS SITE VIDEO: Antares Explodes Seconds After Taking Flight to Space Station

Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff Monday evening on Wallops Island, VA. Photo Credit: Alex Polimeni / AmericaSpace

Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff Monday evening on Wallops Island, Va. Photo Credit: Alex Polimeni / AmericaSpace

This evening everything seemed perfect for Orbital Sciences Corporation to launch their Antares rocket to deliver the Cygnus cargo resupply ship to the International Space Station; the weather was 100 percent GO, the range was green, and the skies were clear, but an anomaly occurred just seconds after liftoff, causing a catastrophic explosion of the Antares booster above the launch pad.

Continue reading PRESS SITE VIDEO: Antares Explodes Seconds After Taking Flight to Space Station

Wallops Personnel Safe After 'Catastrophic' Failure of ORB-3 Launch

Like a scene from a horror movie, Orbital's dream of resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) crashes cruelly back to Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

Like a scene from a horror movie, Orbital’s dream of resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) crashes cruelly back to Earth. Photo Credit: NASA

Following a frustrating 24-hour delay, caused by the presence of an unauthorized watercraft in the Launch Danger Zone, the heart was torn from Orbital Sciences Corp. today (Tuesday, 28 October), following the explosion—just six seconds after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT—of its fifth Antares booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. A gorgeous sunset, near-perfect weather conditions, and an exceptionally smooth countdown might have seemed the ideal prelude for a successful flight of the third dedicated Cygnus cargo mission (ORB-3) to the International Space Station (ISS). That success has now been shattered and Antares indefinitely grounded as Orbital seeks to understand what caused its largest home-grown cryogenic rocket to vanish in a ball of fire.

Continue reading Wallops Personnel Safe After ‘Catastrophic’ Failure of ORB-3 Launch

ULA Prepares to Launch Fourth GPS Satellite of 2014

Artist's impression of a Block IIF GPS satellite in orbit.  Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

Artist’s impression of a Block IIF GPS satellite in orbit. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

Adding to an already impressive tally of accolades, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is ready to stage its 12th flight of the year, delivering the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-8 satellite into a medium orbit, some 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km) above Earth. Liftoff is presently targeted for 1:21 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 29 October, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at the opening of an 18-minute “window.” It marks the fourth GPS mission of 2014—following hard on the heels of GPS IIF-5 in February, GPS IIF-6 in May, and GPS IIF-7 in August—as ULA progresses toward completion of the 12-strong “Interim” Block IIF constellation of global positioning, velocity, and timing satellites. The mission will be undertaken by the workhorse Atlas V, flying in its “401” configuration, which boasts a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.  

Continue reading ULA Prepares to Launch Fourth GPS Satellite of 2014

Today's ORB-3 Cygnus Mission to Honor Legendary Astronaut Deke Slayton

AS-6.13.13-ASTP-563-S75-23429 Retro Space Images post of NASA photo of Apollo astronaut Deke Slayton posted on AmericaSpace

Deke Slayton, one of the “Original Seven” Mercury astronauts, will be honored by having the ORB-3 mission named for him. Photo Credit: NASA

More than half a century ago, he was selected as one of America’s first seven Mercury astronauts. Almost four decades ago, after being controversially grounded by a suspected heart murmur, he finally rose from Earth on his first and only space mission. A little over two decades ago, he lost his life’s last battle, succumbing to a brain tumor, aged just 69. Now, in 2014—the year in which Donald “Deke” Slayton would have turned 90—he will be fittingly honored as Orbital Sciences Corp. launches its third dedicated Cygnus cargo mission (ORB-3) toward the International Space Station (ISS). When “Spaceship Deke Slayton” rockets into orbit tonight (Monday, 27 October), it will pay tribute to a guiding light in America’s early human space program, a key player in President John F. Kennedy’s drive to plant bootprints on the Moon, and a man who overcame many obstacles and never lost sight of his own dream to see the Earth from orbit.

Continue reading Today’s ORB-3 Cygnus Mission to Honor Legendary Astronaut Deke Slayton

A Mission of 'Almosts': Project Gemini's First Rendezvous in Space (Part 2)

Gemini VI crewmen Tom Stafford (left) and Wally Schirra are pictured during an emergency water egress exercise. Photo Credit: NASA

Gemini VI crewmen Tom Stafford (left) and Wally Schirra are pictured during an emergency water egress exercise. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost 50 years ago, the United States almost staged its first rendezvous mission between unpiloted and piloted vehicles in low-Earth orbit. An Atlas-Agena target craft was almost successfully launched, yet failed to achieve orbit, and two astronauts—Gemini VI crewmen Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford—almost followed it on a voyage which might have pushed America far ahead of the Soviet Union in the race to plant human bootprints on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Almost.

Continue reading A Mission of ‘Almosts': Project Gemini’s First Rendezvous in Space (Part 2)

Dragon Returns Home as SpaceX Eyes Dec. 9 for Next CRS Launch and F9 Booster Landing Attempt

Dragon splashes down into the Pacific Ocean some 300 miles west of Baja, CA on Sat., Oct. 24, 2014 at 3:38 p.m. EDT, bringing 3,276 lbs of cargo & science experiments back to Earth from the ISS. Photo: SpaceX

Dragon splashes down into the Pacific Ocean some 300 miles west of Baja, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2014, at 3:38 p.m. EDT, bringing 3,276 lbs of cargo and science experiments back to Earth from the ISS. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX officially closed out their fourth dedicated Dragon resupply mission for NASA today with a successful splashdown landing of the unmanned orbital cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean 300 miles west of Baja California, Mexico, closing out a five-week mission to restock the International Space Station (ISS) with over 2.5 tons of cargo and science experiments for the Expedition 41 crew currently stationed at the orbiting outpost. Splashdown was confirmed at 3:38 p.m. EDT, with Dragon returning 3,276 pounds of various NASA cargo and science experiments from the ISS.

Continue reading Dragon Returns Home as SpaceX Eyes Dec. 9 for Next CRS Launch and F9 Booster Landing Attempt

'Spaceship Deke Slayton' Set for Monday Launch to Space Station

The ORB-3 Cygnus undergoes final preparations at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., prior to its planned 27 October launch. Photo Credit: Orbital Sciences, Corp.

The ORB-3 Cygnus undergoes final preparations at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., prior to its planned 27 October launch. Photo Credit: Orbital Sciences, Corp.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is ready to deliver its third Cygnus unpiloted cargo craft to the International Space Station (ISS), with liftoff of the ORB-3 mission scheduled to occur from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 6:45 p.m. EDT Monday, 27 October. Coming 37 minutes after local sunset, this will be the first occasion on which Orbital’s two-stage Antares booster has launched in the hours of darkness. The launch has been subject to several days of delay, principally caused by the recent effects of Hurricane Gonzalo, and assuming an on-time liftoff on Monday evening Cygnus should complete its rendezvous and berthing at the ISS on the morning of Sunday, 2 November. It will spend about a month attached to the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the station’s Harmony node and will deliver Orbital’s largest-ever load of equipment and supplies to the incumbent Expedition 41 crew, totaling 5,050 pounds (2,290 kg).

Continue reading ‘Spaceship Deke Slayton’ Set for Monday Launch to Space Station