Artist’s impression of a fast radio burst appearing in the sky above the 64-m Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. A handful of these elusive cosmic radio flashes, whose exact origin remains unknown, have been detected during the last decade. Image Credit: CSIRO/Harvard/Swinburne Astronomy Productions
In 2007, David Narkevic, then a physics and political science undergraduate student at the West Virginia University, discovered a very powerful, ultra short radio burst that had seemingly come from beyond the Milky Way, while he was re-analysing archival data from 2001 that had been collected with the iconic 64-m Parkes radio telescope in Australia. The nature of this powerful, 4.6-millisecond-long signal, which was hidden inside a “haystack” of 480 hours’ worth of data, proved to be quite elusive while bearing no resemblance whatsoever to other known, previously discovered cosmic radio bursts. The enigmatic signal, named “the Lorimer burst” after Dr. Duncan Lorimer, an astronomy professor at the West Virginia University and Narkevic’s supervisor, thus remained a strange peculiarity for years, without reappearing in follow-up scans of the same part of the sky. A new cosmic mystery had been born.
Continue reading They Came From Outer Space! The Mystery of the Fast Radio Bursts
Boeing recently completed the final two milestones under the company’s CCiCap agreement with NASA, making Boeing the first, and only, company to have completed their CCiCap program on time and on budget. Image Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace / Boeing
One of three commercial spacecraft currently being developed under a NASA-funded competition to replace the agency’s now retired space shuttle fleet may have just sealed the deal in their effort to earn award of a commercial crew contract to return human spaceflight capability back to the United States. Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation capsule, or CST-100, is the company’s choice to provide NASA and the United States with a new mode of American-made transportation to and from the International Space Station, and last week the company became the first—and thus far only—company to complete its CST-100 Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, both on time and on budget.
Continue reading Boeing’s CST-100 Completes CCiCap On Time and On Budget, Awaits NASA’s Commercial Crew Award Decision
Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians dressed in clean-room suits install a back shell tile panel onto the Orion crew module. Photo Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Things are moving forward nicely at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Operations and Checkout Building in Florida, where technicians with Lockheed Martin (Orion’s prime contractor) are working hard to ready the agency’s Orion spacecraft for its maiden voyage next December. The flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1 for short), will put the unmanned capsule in action to evaluate its launch and high speed re-entry systems, such as avionics, attitude control, parachutes, computers, software, guidance and control, the separation events, and the critical heat shield, and last week the team preparing Orion to fly installed the 970 tiles that make up the spacecraft’s protective cone-shaped back shell.
Continue reading Orion’s Protective Shell of 970 Space Shuttle Thermal Tiles Installed for EFT-1 Mission
Neptune and its large moon, Triton, as seen by Voyager 2, three days after closest approach. Photo Credit: NASA
Twenty-five years ago, this week, humanity braced itself for its last, first-time, close-up glimpse of a new planet in the 20th century. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in August 1977, had already conducted a breathtaking exploration of Jupiter and Saturn—together with its twin, Voyager 1—and had undertaken our species’ first visit to Uranus. In readiness for the Uranus and Neptune rendezvous, a conference in Pasadena, Calif., in February 1984, allowed scientists to look at what was known about the two mysterious planets and identify a comprehensive series of observations about them. Although a reasonable amount of valuable data existed about Neptune, the enormous quantity of new information which would flow back to Earth in August 1989 enriched our understanding of this strange, distant world. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the observations of Neptune turned up many more questions than answers, as would its close passage by one of the Solar System’s most enigmatic moons: Triton.
Continue reading A Shrinking, Icy Moon: 25 Years Since Voyager 2′s Mission to Neptune (Part 4)
Dream Chaser blazes to orbit and the ISS after separation from ULA Atlas V Rocket 2nd stage and liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)
With the pace of assembly accelerating for the first private Dream Chaser space plane, plans for its maiden blastoff on an “orbital test flight on a fully autonomous mission in Nov. 2016″ are moving forward, Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems, told AmericaSpace in Part 3 of our exclusive, one-on-one interview about their efforts to build a cost-effective astronaut taxi to the International Space Station (ISS).
The first unmanned flight will be followed by the launch of the first manned Dream Chaser before the end of 2017, under NASA’s current timetable, Sirangelo stated.
Continue reading Flight Plans and Crews for Commercial Dream Chaser’s First Flights: One-on-One Interview With SNC VP Mark Sirangelo (Part 3)
The Great Dark Spot and Bright Companion, together with the chevron-like “Scooter” and D-2, are visible in this Voyager 2 image of Neptune. Photo Credit: NASA
Twenty-five years ago, this week, humanity braced itself for its last, first-time, close-up glimpse of a new planet in the 20th century. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in August 1977, had already conducted a breathtaking exploration of Jupiter and Saturn—together with its twin, Voyager 1—and had undertaken our species’ first visit to Uranus. In readiness for the Uranus and Neptune rendezvous, a conference in Pasadena, Calif., in February 1984, allowed scientists to look at what was known about the two mysterious planets and identify a comprehensive series of observations about them. Although a reasonable amount of valuable data existed about Neptune, the enormous quantity of new information which would flow back to Earth in August 1989 enriched our understanding of this strange, distant world. As described in last weekend’s AmericaSpace history article, planning for the encounter had already required major enhancements in the worldwide deep-space tracking network and a complex rendezvous profile.
Continue reading A Windy World: 25 Years Since Voyager 2′s Mission to Neptune (Part 3)
A SpaceX F9R prototype rocket exploded during a flight test in the skies over Texas on Friday, Aug. 22, when an anomaly was detected in-flight. Photo Credit: Amanda Spence
By definition, flight tests are expected to validate a vehicle’s ability to fly as designed and reveal any issues, whether good or bad, as doing so provides the data needed to support further development of a safe and effective flight system, and Friday afternoon spectators in Texas were present to witness one such example when the company’s prototype Falcon-9 Reusable Development Vehicle (F9R Dev for short) exploded in-flight.
Continue reading In-Flight Anomaly Forces Self-Destruct of Experimental SpaceX Rocket in Latest Flight Test
Steve Nagel (1946-2014). Photo Credit: Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de
Veteran shuttle astronaut Steve Nagel died Thursday, 21 August, following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 67. His passing was reported by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and drew numerous tributes, including former astronaut Tom Jones, who wrote that he was “an exemplary role model for astronauts and space professionals” and added that Nagel was “a terrific family man.” He leaves behind his wife, fellow astronaut Linda Godwin—with whom he flew in space on STS-37 in April 1991—and two daughters. Nagel’s life was a story of triumph over adversity, but aviation was his lifeblood: from his first solo flight on his 16th birthday to being placed on the alternate list for the Air Force Academy, from flying jets in Thailand to instructing the astronauts destined to fly shuttle Enterprise on its Approach and Landing Tests (ALT), and from one of the last members of his astronaut class to draw a flight assignment to a dazzling, four-mission career. He is also the third member of the 61A shuttle crew to have died in 2014, following Wubbo Ockels in May and Hank Hartsfield in July.
Continue reading Veteran Shuttle Astronaut Steve Nagel Dies, Aged 67
Derived from a vehicle which has accomplished more than 1,800 launches since the mid-1960s, the Soyuz vehicle is one of the world’s most reliable rockets. Photo Credit: Arianespace
Following a 24-hour postponement, caused by poor weather conditions in the vicinity of the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, Arianespace has launched its ninth Soyuz vehicle on a historic mission to deliver the first pair of Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC-1) navigational satellites into orbit. Liftoff took place at 9:27:11 a.m. GFT (8:27:11 a.m. EDT) Friday, 22 August, from the Ensemble de Lancement Soyouz (ELS) zone, close to the French Guianese coastal town and commune of Sinnamary. All aspects of the ascent phase ran smoothly and the Galileo twins—named “Doresa” and “Milena,” in honor of German and Estonian children, who won a 2011 European Commission art competition—were deployed into orbit a little under four hours later. However, it subsequently became clear that “complementary observations” made after the separation of the satellites highlighted “a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit.” Based upon U.S. Space Surveillance tracking data, Spaceflight101 described the discrepancy as “significant.” Investigations are currently underway as to the impact this anomaly will have on the long-awaited mission.
Continue reading Arianespace Launches First Pair of Fully Operational Galileo Satellites—ANOMALY UPDATE
An artist’s rendition of MAVEN at Mars. Image Credit: NASA / GSFC
The spacecraft tasked with carrying out NASA’s first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere is now just 30 days out from the Red Planet, having so far covered 405 million miles over the last nine months, as it quietly cruises the void between our worlds at over 16 miles per second (Earth-centered velocity). Now, with over 90 percent of the long journey completed, and all of the spacecraft’s instruments operating nominally, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, is on track for Mars orbit insertion (MOI) at 10:00 p.m. EDT on Sept. 21.
Continue reading MAVEN’s Half-Billion-Mile Journey to Mars Now 30 Days Out From Red Planet