AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch ABS 3A on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
2 Mar 15 3:50:00 GMT
1 Mar 15 22:50:00 EST

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Ceres Reveals Eye-Like Bright Spots, Mr. Spock Explains Dawn

This image was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin.   Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

This image was taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

A scientific mystery on dwarf planet Ceres—worthy of investigation by 21st century scientists and Star Trek’s 23rd century Science Officer Mr. Spock—is deepening, even as the Dawn spacecraft journeys ever closer to orbital capture one week from today!

Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed the character Mr. Spock aboard the fictional Starship USS Enterprise on TV and film, passed away today, Feb. 27, at age 83. He was a friend of Dawn and NASA.

Continue reading Ceres Reveals Eye-Like Bright Spots, Mr. Spock Explains Dawn

SpaceX Ready for First Dual-Satellite Mission to Geostationary Orbit on Sunday

The ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites being readied for a March 1, 2015 launch attempt atop a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo Credit: Boeing

The ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites being readied for a March 1, 2015 launch attempt atop a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo Credit: Boeing

Having completed a successful Static Fire Test of the nine Merlin 1D first-stage engines on its Falcon 9 v1.1 booster on Wednesday, 25 February, SpaceX stands ready to deliver its first dual-satellite mission toward Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), no sooner than Sunday, 1 March. Originally scheduled to fly Friday night, liftoff was realigned by 48 hours and is presently expected to occur within a 45-minute “window,” which extends from 10:49-11:34 p.m. EST. In the event of a scrub on Sunday night, SpaceX has Eastern Range approval for a backup opportunity Monday, with the window opening at the slightly earlier time of 10:45 p.m. and extending until 11:30 p.m. Flying from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the mission will be SpaceX’s third flight of 2015 and its payload—the Eutelsat 115 West B and Asia Broadcasting Satellite (ABS)-3A communications satellites—marks the company’s fifth cargo bound for geostationary orbit.

Continue reading SpaceX Ready for First Dual-Satellite Mission to Geostationary Orbit on Sunday

Curiosity Snaps Expansive Selfie, Sets Next Drill Campaign

This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Mojave" site, where its drill collected the mission's second taste of Mount Sharp. The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover's robotic arm. Image Credit:   NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Mojave” site, where its drill collected the mission’s second taste of Mount Sharp. The scene combines dozens of images taken during January 2015 by the MAHLI camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
See drill site photomosaics below

The car-sized Curiosity rover has snapped a sweeping selfie encompassing the spectacular alien terrain of the Red Planet, where she has spent the past five months wandering, exploring, and working to unravel the mysteries of the planet’s past and assess ancient habitable environments.

This latest selfie from Curiosity was just released by NASA on Feb. 24 and taken during the last half of January at the majestic “Pahrump Hills” outcrop area on Mars. It shows a super wide-angle view around the “Mojave” site where she just conducted a second local area drilling operation for sample analysis by the rover’s duo of on-board chemistry laboratories.

Continue reading Curiosity Snaps Expansive Selfie, Sets Next Drill Campaign

Scientists Debate How to Search for Life on Europa in New Mission

Europa

Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa hides a water ocean beneath its surface. A return mission is now planned to help search for evidence of life there. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

Jupiter’s moon Europa, with its subsurface ocean, is considered by many to be the best place in the Solar System to search for extraterrestrial life. With NASA now committing itself to a new mission sometime in the 2020s, the focus is turning to what would be the best strategy for looking for any life which may be there. Over 200 scientists and engineers met at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., last week for a workshop called the The Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume to do just that.

Continue reading Scientists Debate How to Search for Life on Europa in New Mission

NASA, Orbital ATK to Debut 'Flight-Like Avionics' During Upcoming SLS Booster Firing

File photo of a five-segment ATK solid rocket booster on the company's test stand in Promontory, Utah. The 154-foot booster, which is in development for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), will produce heat two-thirds the temperature of the sun, and its 12-foot-diameter cylinder will deliver 3.6 million pounds of thrust when the rocket ignites. The next full-scale test article for the SLS booster, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), is expected to ignite for a two-minute test fire in late March 2015. Photo Credit: ATK

File photo of a five-segment ATK solid rocket booster on the company’s test stand in Promontory, Utah. The 154-foot booster, which is in development for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), will produce heat two-thirds the temperature of the Sun, and its 12-foot-diameter cylinder will deliver 3.6 million pounds of thrust when the rocket ignites. The next full-scale test article for the SLS booster, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), is expected to ignite for a two-minute test fire in late-March 2015. Photo Credit: ATK

While its first test flight may be 3.5 years out, NASA is hard at work developing its successor to the Apollo era’s mighty Saturn V, which launched a generation of astronauts beyond Earth’s confines to the Moon.

NASA’s newest launch vehicle, which will take the next generation of astronauts and space explorers to destinations such as Mars, asteroids, and deep space, continues to come together. On Wednesday, March 11, Orbital ATK will conduct a a full-scale test fire of the company’s Space Launch System (SLS) booster test article, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), at its facilities in Promontory, Utah. The company announced last week that a “flight-like” set of avionics will be part of the QM-1 test article, which will mark the first time in spaceflight history that this kind of system will be included in a booster firing test.

Continue reading NASA, Orbital ATK to Debut ‘Flight-Like Avionics’ During Upcoming SLS Booster Firing

NASA’s Upgraded Crawler Transporter-2 Takes Test Drive With SLS Modifications

NASA’s crawler-transporters have been hauling rockets and spacecraft to launch pad for 50 years. Image credit: Talia Landman/AmericaSpace

NASA’s crawler-transporters have been hauling rockets and spacecraft to launch pad for 50 years. Image Credit: Talia Landman/AmericaSpace

NASA’s massive Crawler Transporter-2, also known as CT-2, was moved on Monday, Feb. 23, to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to test the completed modifications that will allow it to transport NASA’s next heavy-lift rocket and Orion capsule for manned trips to space. This marks 50 years since the iconic crawler became an integral part of the agency’s manned space program.

Back-dropped by the massive 113-foot-long and 114-foot-wide CT-2, NASA crawler project manager Mary Hanna explained some of the history behind the iconic crawler and described the changes made to modify it for NASA’s next generation spacecraft, Orion, and heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System.

Continue reading NASA’s Upgraded Crawler Transporter-2 Takes Test Drive With SLS Modifications

Spacewalkers Complete Cable Work, Lubricate Robot Arm, and Prepare ISS for Busy 2015

Captured by the cameras on Canadarm2, a tired Terry Virts presses on with his lubrication task during EVA-30. Photo Credit: NASA

Captured by the cameras on Canadarm2, Terry Virts presses on with his lubrication task during EVA-30. Photo Credit: NASA

Expedition 42 spacewalkers Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts returned inside the International Space Station (ISS) at 1:29 p.m. EST Wednesday, 25 February, wrapping up six hours and 43 minutes of multi-faceted activity on EVA-30. The duo finished the laying of cables in support of the future arrival of two International Docking Adapters (IDAs), removed a thermal and Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) cover from Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-2, and moved on to independent tasks, with Wilmore readying the Tranquility node for the relocation and arrival of ISS modules later in 2015 and Virts masterfully working through a tricky lubrication of the Latching End Effector (LEE) on the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm. Working more than 75 minutes ahead of the timeline, the spacewalkers breezed through their tasks, with several get-ahead activities completed ahead of Sunday’s scheduled EVA-31. However, whether that final spacewalk will occur remains in flux, following the worrying discovery of traces of water in Virts’ helmet shortly after repressurization.

Continue reading Spacewalkers Complete Cable Work, Lubricate Robot Arm, and Prepare ISS for Busy 2015

Alexei Gubarev, Commander of First International Mission to Space Station, Dies Aged 83

 

The first "international" crew aboard the Salyut 6 space station in March 1978 consisted of (from left) Vladimir Remek, Alexei Gubarev, Georgi Grechko and Yuri Romanenko. Gubarev and Grechko had previously flown together to Salyut 4 in early 1975. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

The first “international” crew aboard the Salyut 6 space station in March 1978 consisted of (from left) Vladimir Remek, Alexei Gubarev, Georgi Grechko, and Yuri Romanenko. Gubarev and Grechko had previously flown together to Salyut 4 in early 1975. Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Former cosmonaut Alexei Gubarev—who commanded a month-long mission to the Soviet Union’s Salyut 4 space station in early 1974 and later led the first international orbital voyage to Salyut 6, teamed with Czechoslovakia’s Vladimir Remek, in March 1978—has died, aged 83. According to the Prague Post and Russian sources, Gubarev passed away on 21 February. Selected in the early 1960s as part of a “new generation” of older and more highly qualified cosmonauts, Gubarev worked on the early Soyuz program, whose various arms included military and lunar options, and was intimately involved in the Soyuz 11 tragedy of June 1971. During his two missions, Gubarev spent more than five weeks in orbit and became one of the first men to occupy two different space stations.

Continue reading Alexei Gubarev, Commander of First International Mission to Space Station, Dies Aged 83

Historic Satellite Retrieved by Three-Person Shuttle Spacewalk Ends its Life, According to Intelsat

Its new booster securely fitted, Intelsat 603 drifts away from Endeavour's payload bay. After insertion into geosynchronous orbit, the satellite was instrumental in providing television coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Photo Credit: NASA

Its new booster securely fitted, Intelsat 603 drifts away from Endeavour’s payload bay. After insertion into geosynchronous orbit, the satellite was instrumental in providing television coverage of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Photo Credit: NASA

Almost a quarter-century since its launch, and more than two decades since shuttle astronauts triumphantly snatched it from an unusable low-Earth orbit and successfully reboosted it to its intended geostationary altitude, more than 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the Home Planet, the historic Intelsat 603 communications satellite has reached the end of its operational lifetime. According to its owner, the Luxembourg-headquartered International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, the final commands to dispose of “this famous bird” occurred on 23 January 2015 and were executed from Intelsat’s East Coast Operations Center in Tysons Corner, Va. Although Intelsat announced that it would “deorbit” Intelsat 603, the aging satellite was actually moved to a graveyard orbit, thereby preventing it from posing a collision hazard or adding to the existing orbital debris field.

Continue reading Historic Satellite Retrieved by Three-Person Spacewalk Ends its Life, According to Intelsat

Orion: Lessons Learned on EFT-1 and Moving Forward to EM-1

Whole capsule view of Orion heat shield and compression pads during homecoming event for NASA’s first Orion spacecraft after returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 19, 2014.  Orion launched successfully on Dec. 5, 2014 and was recovered from the Pacific Ocean by the US Navy .  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/AmericaSpace

Whole capsule view of Orion heat shield and compression pads during homecoming event for NASA’s first Orion spacecraft after returning to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 19, 2014. Orion launched successfully on Dec. 5, 2014 and was recovered from the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy . Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/AmericaSpace

Contractors across the U.S. are moving forward and building the initial components for the next vehicle in NASA’s line of Orion spacecraft, EM-1, even as engineers from NASA and prime contractor Lockheed Martin analyze and assess all the critical data collected from its “almost flawless” maiden mission on the recently completed EFT-1 unmanned test flight.

Orion is NASA’s next generation crew capsule and the lynchpin of NASA’s strategy to once again carry humans beyond Earth on voyages to deep space destinations in our Solar System.

Continue reading Orion: Lessons Learned on EFT-1 and Moving Forward to EM-1