AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch CLIO on a Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
17 Sep 14 0:10:00 GMT
16 Sep 14 20:10:00 EDT

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NASA Hedges On Critical Suit Battery Resupply

EMU with SAFER

EMU PLSS (top) with SAFER (bottom). Photo: NASA

NASA has confirmed to AmericaSpace that the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Long Life Batteries (LLBs) will not be launching solely on SpX–4, as originally planned. Instead, according to NASA, two of the four LLBs have already been sent to Russia for launch aboard a Soyuz scheduled for late September, after SpX–4. Since August, ISS maintenance EVAs have been curtailed due to the current EMU battery issues, therefore making the resupply of new EMU batteries a top priority for NASA. Given the possibility of a launch delay of either SpaceX or Soyuz, NASA’s decision to hedge and split the payload between the upcoming SpaceX cargo flight and a later Soyuz flight appears prudent.

Continue reading NASA Hedges On Critical Suit Battery Resupply

ULA Atlas-V 'Threads the Needle' With End-of-Window CLIO Launch

The secretive CLIO missions taking flight atop a ULA Atlas-V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla on Sept. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The secretive CLIO missions taking flight atop a ULA Atlas-V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla on Sept. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

“Threading the needle” through exceptionally ugly weather, and coming close to a scrub and 24-hour turnaround, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully delivered its 11th mission of 2014 into orbit. Liftoff of the Atlas V—which flew in its “401” configuration, numerically designated to describe a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—took place at 8:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 16 September, from the storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch occurred at the very last moment of a 146-minute “window,” which extended from 5:44 p.m. until 8:10 p.m. and, like July’s AFSPC-4 campaign, ran down to the wire until the final minutes.

Continue reading ULA Atlas-V ‘Threads the Needle’ With End-of-Window CLIO Launch

Radzanowski NASA's New CFO

David Radzanowski

David Radzanowski[1], currently the Chief of Staff and advisor to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, was on Thursday confirmed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate to be the next NASA Chief Financial Officer. He replaces Beth Robinson[2].

Continue reading Radzanowski NASA’s New CFO

Boeing and SpaceX Awarded Contracts to Fill Void Left by NASA's Retired Space Shuttles

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

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, 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 four 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 Void Left by NASA’s Retired Space Shuttles

NASA's SLS Human Rocket Road to Mars Starts Here and Now at Michoud and Mississippi!

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

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially unveils the world’s largest spacecraft welder to begin construction of first 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 rocket’s 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 Selected for First-Ever Attempt to Land on a Comet

Landing site J, marked by the white cross, 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

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

ULA Aims for Top-Secret CLIO Launch on Tuesday, 16 September

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

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

'To Make Sure We Didn't Make the News': The High-Altitude Mission of STS-48 (Part 2)

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

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)

Living On the Edge: The Mysterious Lakes of Titan (Part 4)

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

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)

'Gentlemen's Hours': The High-Altitude Mission of STS-48 (Part 1)

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

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)