AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch GPS IIF-7 on a Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
2 Aug 14 3:23:00 GMT
1 Aug 14 23:23:00 EDT

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ULA Prepares to Launch Second Mission Within One Week ... For Third Time in 2014

The seventh Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellite, encapsulated within its payload fairing, is presently scheduled to rocket into orbit on Friday night. Photo Credit: ULA

The seventh Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellite, encapsulated within its payload fairing, is presently scheduled to rocket into orbit Friday night. Photo Credit: ULA

With eight successful launches under its belt so far in 2014, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is set to attempt a ninth on Friday, 1 August, with the flight of an Atlas V booster from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Liftoff of the vehicle, which is flying in its “401” configuration—numerically designated to describe a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on rockets, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—is scheduled to occur at 11:23 p.m. EDT, at the opening of an 18-minute “window.” The Atlas will transport the seventh Global Positioning System (GPS) Block IIF satellite into a medium orbit, some 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km) above Earth. Coming just four days after Monday’s successful launch of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-4 mission, a successful flight on Friday will mark the third occasion that ULA has accomplished two missions within the span of a single week in 2014.  

Continue reading ULA Prepares to Launch Second Mission Within One Week … For Third Time in 2014

DARPA Seeks to Develop Reusable XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane

Artist’s concept of DARPA Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 deploying satellites to low-Earth orbit. Credit: DARPA

Artist’s concept of DARPA Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 deploying satellites to low-Earth orbit. Credit: DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving forward with its goal of developing the next generation XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane aimed at creating a fully-reusable unmanned vehicle to launch small payloads into orbit at radically lower costs.

Continue reading DARPA Seeks to Develop Reusable XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane

NASA Extends SpaceX CCiCap Award Period Into 2015, Splits Up Company's Critical Design Review Milestone

SpaceX's Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket is seen here on its maiden voyage on 29 September 2013. Recently NASA granted SpaceX's request to extend their CCiCap award period from August 2014 to March 2015, and split the company's Milestone 13 Critical Design Review into four separate milestones. Photo Credit: Robert C. Fisher

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket is seen here on its maiden voyage on Sept. 29, 2013. Recently NASA granted SpaceX’s request to extend their CCiCap award period from August 2014 to March 2015, and split the company’s Milestone 13 Critical Design Review into four separate milestones. Photo Credit: Robert C. Fisher

NASA’s Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative has, for the last couple years, been facilitating industry’s development of an integrated American-made crew transportation system (CTS) to fill the void left by the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet in 2011. By investing in three companies (Sierra Nevada, Boeing, and SpaceX) to develop the next low-Earth orbit crew transport, NASA will have three commercial vehicles to choose from, and the space agency is expected to award a big money contract for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station to one, or more, of those three companies very soon, with the goal being returning human spaceflight capability back to the United States by 2017.

Continue reading NASA Extends SpaceX CCiCap Award Period Into 2015, Splits Up Company’s Critical Design Review Milestone

Europe's Ariane 5 Successfully Launches Final ATV Cargo Ship to Space Station

The Ariane 5 turns night into day with a dazzling liftoff at 8:47:46 p.m. GFT (7:47:46 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, 29 July. Photo Credit: Arianespace

The Ariane 5 turns night into day with a dazzling liftoff at 8:47:46 p.m. GFT (7:47:46 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, 29 July. Photo Credit: Arianespace

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is presently en-route to the International Space Station (ISS), following a rousing launch atop a mighty Ariane 5 booster from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, on Tuesday, 29 July. Liftoff of the two-stage Ariane 5 occurred at 8:47:46 p.m. GFT (7:47:46 p.m. EDT) and delivered ATV-5—which is named in honor of the Belgian priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître (1894-1966)—on a two-week journey to the space station. It will dock automatically at the aft longitudinal port of the Zvezda module on 12 August and will remain in place until late January 2015, bringing about 5,730 pounds (2,600 kg) of dry cargo to the ISS and its incumbent Expedition 40 crew.

Continue reading Europe’s Ariane 5 Successfully Launches Final ATV Cargo Ship to Space Station

No Water, Please: The Case of the Surprisingly Dry 'Hot Jupiters'

This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus. The planet was recently studied by astronomers alongside two other similar extrasolar worlds, for their abundance in water. To the surprise of astronomers, they have found much less water vapor in the planets' atmospheres than standard planet-formation models predict. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC)

This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus. The planet was recently studied by astronomers alongside two other similar extrasolar worlds, for their abundance in water. To the surprise of astronomers, they have found much less water vapor in the planets’ atmospheres than standard planet-formation models predict. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC)

An international team of astronomers which examined the atmospheres of three “hot Jupiters” for their abundances in water vapor found them to be much drier than previously thought, challenging the established theoretical models of planetary formation and evolution.

Continue reading No Water, Please: The Case of the Surprisingly Dry ‘Hot Jupiters’

'Miles and Miles and Miles': Opportunity Sets New Off-World Distance Milestone

Simulated image of Opportunity at work in Endurance crater. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

Simulated image of Opportunity at work in Endurance crater. The “little Mars rover that could” recently surpassed a 41-year-old “off-world” distance record. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad famously quipped as he stepped upon the Moon’s surface, “Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small [step] for Neil [Armstrong], but that’s a long one for me.” Conrad was not only spoofing his predecessor’s words, but also was poking fun at his small stature.

Likewise, one of the smaller rovers sent to Mars’ surface just completed a long step of its own. Opportunity, NASA’s Mars rover that recently passed its 10th year of operation, was announced to have broken the off-world distance record this week. The rover passed 25 miles (40 kilometers), surpassing the previous record holder, the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 Moon rover.

Continue reading ‘Miles and Miles and Miles’: Opportunity Sets New Off-World Distance Milestone

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 Astronaut 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 is 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