United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today it is taking CubeSat rideshares to the next level by launching a new, innovative program offering universities the chance to compete for at least six CubeSat launch slots on two Atlas V missions, with a goal to eventually add university CubeSat slots to nearly every Atlas and Vulcan launch. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace
United Launch Alliance (ULA), the most experienced and reliable launch service provider in the United States, announced today they are kicking off a new program to answer America’s increasing need for universities to have access and availability to launch Cubesats more affordably. In order to do so, the company will give accredited U.S. colleges and universities opportunities to compete for free CubeSat rides on future Atlas-V and Vulcan rocket launches, and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), where 10% of ULA’s current engineers graduated from, has been offered the first free Cubesat ride in 2017.
Continue reading ULA Offers Universities Free CubeSat Rides on Future Launches, First Slot Goes To CU Boulder
The edge of a dark sand dune field can be seen in this white-balanced Curiosity image from sol 1115 (Sep. 25, 2015). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Mars is often referred to as a desert world, being bone-dry for the most part, with dust and sand blanketing most of the surface. Some regions are covered in vast sand dunes, reminiscent of deserts like the Sahara on Earth, only much colder. Gale crater, where the Curiosity rover landed in 2012, features extensive dune fields around the base of Mount Sharp, and the rover is now approaching some of them for the first time; their dark color makes them stand out starkly against the surrounding terrain. These dunes are also still active, meaning they are still mobile and shaped by the wind, not just old “fossil” (petrified) dunes which are no longer active.
Continue reading NASA’s Curiosity Rover Approaching Active Martian Sand Dunes After Latest Drilling Completed
The S-6 truss and its two expansive Solar Array Wings (SAWs) are deployed during the STS-119 shuttle mission in March 2009. “Channel 1B,” one of the two power channels aboard the S-6 truss, is believed to have fallen victim to a power short, which tripped its Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU). The cause has been traced to the failure of the channel’s Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU), for which a replacement is expected to be launched and installed in 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
The incumbent Expedition 45 crew of the International Space Station (ISS)—Commander Scott Kelly of NASA, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko, and Sergei Volkov, U.S. astronaut Kjell Lindgren, and Japan’s Kimiya Yui—continues to function normally, just a matter of days after one of eight power channels on the expansive Integrated Truss Structure (ITS) went down on Friday, 13 November.
“Channel 1B,” one of the two power channels aboard the S-6 truss, is believed to have fallen victim to a power short, which tripped its Direct Current Switching Unit (DCSU). The cause has been traced to the failure of the channel’s Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU), for which a replacement is expected to be launched and installed in 2016. Parallels have been drawn with a similar SSU failure in May 2014, on Channel 3A aboard the S-4 truss, which was later replaced by Expedition 41 spacewalkers Reid Wiseman and Barry “Butch” Wilmore. It is understood that, since Friday’s incident, the station has lost some systems redundancy, but that normal operations for the crew have been unaffected.
Continue reading ‘No Impacts’ to Expedition 45 Crew, as 1B Channel on S-6 Truss Suffers Power Loss
A United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket launching with the U.S. Air Force GPS 2F-11 satellite Oct. 31, 2015. The USAF believes that ULA had options that would have allowed it to bid on the initial GPS III launch in 2018, but given ULA’s RD-180 engine supply, the company decided instead to cede that launch to SpaceX. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace
The U.S. Air Force believes that United Launch Alliance (ULA) had options that would have allowed it to bid on the initial GPS III launch in 2018, but, given ULA’s RD-180 engine supply, the company has decided instead to cede that launch to Elon Musk and his Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services competitor SpaceX.
ULA believes to compete for future military space launches it must be able to procure additional Russian RD-180 rocket engines for its Atlas-V launcher, which it believes it cannot do under the current budget and policy.
Continue reading ULA Firm On No Bid Face-off With USAF on RD-180 and GPS-III Launch Procurement Policy
As with her launch and the bulk of her on-orbit operations, Atlantis’ landing was also shrouded in gloom. She became the first orbiter to return to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in more than 5.5 years when she touched down on 20 November 1990. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Twenty-five years ago, tonight, fire and thunder rattled the marshy landscape of Florida and an artificial sunrise—for just a few minutes—created a new dawn. At 6:48 p.m. EST on 15 November 1990, Atlantis roared into orbit on the seventh classified shuttle mission for the Department of Defense. Aboard the orbiter for the projected four-day flight were Commander Dick Covey, Pilot Frank Culbertson, and Mission Specialists Carl Meade, Bob Springer, and Charles “Sam” Gemar, and STS-38 would deliver a secretive payload into space to support a gradually escalating international military presence in the Middle East, following the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. For Carl Meade, it was the eve of his 40th birthday, but for all five astronauts it was culmination of months of frustrating delays and the pinnacle of five lifetimes spent dreaming about aviation.
Continue reading ‘The Thing That Was Really Unique’: 25 Years Since the Secret Mission of STS-38 (Part 2)
A young astronomer observes Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) during a public outreach program at the Seminole State College Planetarium in central Florida March 16, 2013. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace
In the world of telescopes, light gathering power is dictated by the physical size of the first mirror or lens exposed to the sky. The larger the “aperture” the more light gathering power the instrument has. With ground-based scopes, this is not much of an issue—just build a bigger objective lens or mirror. For space-based telescopes, however, this presents a huge problem, as the size of the scope package is constrained by the physical dimensions and lifting capacity of the launch vehicle. The new field of “Freeform Optics,” while not changing the rules of telescope design, is certainly changing the playing field, enabling telescopes to be shoehorned into smaller or more complex spacecraft volumes.
Continue reading Development of Freeform Optics Technology May Revolutionize Space Telescopes
The STS-38 crew consisted of (from left) Pilot Frank Culbertson, Mission Specialists Carl Meade, Bob Springer and Sam Gemar, and Commander Dick Covey. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
A quarter-century ago, the world stood on the brink of outright conflict in the Middle East, following the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. Against this stormy backdrop of an impending war which would define a generation, as well as set the groundwork for later assaults on Iraq and the eventual overthrow of Saddam, in November 1990—25 years ago, next week—Atlantis rocketed into orbit on the seventh classified shuttle mission for the Department of Defense. To this day, the exact details of what the five-man STS-38 crew did during their five days in orbit remain enshrouded in secrecy. But as with so many aspects of these classified missions, real events and rumors have become strangely juxtaposed and there can be little doubt that it will be many more years before any hard facts about this mysterious flight see the light of day.
Continue reading ‘Most Serious and Significant Work’: 25 Years Since the Secret Mission of STS-38 (Part 1)
SpaceX’s Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), whose construction was completed in 2015, stands astride the “crawlerway,” beyond the Pad 39A perimeter. Photo Credit: SpaceX Facebook Group (unofficial), used with permission
Not since 8 July 2011 and the final launch of the Space Shuttle Program—during which Atlantis delivered the STS-135 crew of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim to the International Space Station (ISS)—has Pad 39A resounded to the roar of rocket engines carrying humans into space. Last weekend, almost 19 months since NASA signed over to SpaceX control and oversight of the only launch facility from which humans departed Earth to physically touch the face of another world, the massive Transporter-Erector (TE) for future use by the Hawthorne, Calif.-based launch services organization was raised into position for two days of testing. In parallel developments, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) announced Tuesday that SpaceX had completed testing of the SuperDraco launch-abort propulsion system for its Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is currently scheduled to support an unpiloted test flight in the fall of 2016.
Continue reading Pad 39A’s Next Launch Nears, As Key SpaceX Hardware Erected at Historic Site
December’s OA-4 mission marks the first flight of Orbital ATK’s new “Enhanced Cygnus.” Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace
Three weeks before its long-awaited return to flight, Orbital ATK today showed off its next Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which will deliver more than 7,000 pounds (3,100 kg) of supplies to the incumbent Expedition 45 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) in early December. The mission—designated “OA-4,” following the February 2015 merger of the Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. and the Arlington, Va.-headquartered Alliant Techsystems, Inc. (ATK)—will be the first ISS-bound cargo mission to be executed under the auspices of the new space, defense and aviation systems giant. As well as representing the first Cygnus to fly since last year’s catastrophic loss of ORB-3, the mission will also demonstrate the new “Enhanced” configuration of the cargo ship, whose Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) is longer and can deliver an approximately 60 percent larger haul of payloads and supplies than its predecessor. Today’s media event was held in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), where the OA-4 spacecraft is undergoing final checkout, ahead of integration with its United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster.
Continue reading Orbital ATK Showcases New ‘Enhanced Cygnus’, Ahead of 3 December OA-4 Launch