AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch CRS-3 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL scheduled for 18 Apr 14 19:25:22 GMT

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Falcon-9 Helium Leak Scrubs SpaceX Dragon ISS Resupply Mission to NET April 18

SpaceX has called off today's planned Dragon CRS3 launch to the ISS—next launch attempt no earlier than Friday, April 18. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / John Studwell

SpaceX has called off today’s planned Dragon CRS3 launch to the ISS—next launch attempt no earlier than Friday, April 18. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / John Studwell

The third dedicated SpaceX Dragon mission to deliver 4,000+ pounds of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA has been pushed back again, this time due to a helium leak discovered on the Falcon-9 rocket first stage earlier today.

Continue reading Falcon-9 Helium Leak Scrubs SpaceX Dragon ISS Resupply Mission to NET April 18

SpaceX Dragon 'Go' for Monday Launch; Contingency EVA Scheduled for 22 April

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will fly for the first time atop the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 on Monday, 14 April. Photo Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will fly for the first time atop the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 on Monday, 14 April. Photo Credit: SpaceX

A second launch in just four days is scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., when SpaceX launches its third dedicated Dragon cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the two-stage Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket—on its first mission with a Dragon and only its fourth flight in total—is scheduled to occur at 4:58:44 p.m. EDT Monday, 14 April. As with previous SpaceX flights, the launch will occur “instantaneously,” hence the specific timing. SpaceX mission managers officially declared that they were “Go for Launch” at the conclusion of the Launch Readiness Review on Friday afternoon. The failure of a backup Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM) on the space station’s Mobile Base System (MBS), also on Friday, has led to a decision to stage a contingency EVA (designated “U.S. EVA-26″) as early as Tuesday, 22 April. However, the MDM failure and EVA-26 planning is not expected to interfere with tomorrow’s planned CRS-3 launch. 

Continue reading SpaceX Dragon ‘Go’ for Monday Launch; Contingency EVA Scheduled for 22 April

'Poyekhali!' Remembering Our First Space Voyager (Part 2)

Yuri Gagarin (left) was proudly displayed to the world by a joyful Nikita Khrushchev (right), who recognized the political and ideological advantage which his flight had acquired over the United States. Photo Credit: Roscosmos/The Telegraph

Yuri Gagarin (left) was proudly displayed to the world by a joyful Nikita Khrushchev (right), who recognized the political and ideological advantage which his flight had acquired over the United States. Photo Credit: Roscosmos/The Telegraph

The location at which the feet of Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin—the first human ever to break the bonds of Earth and enter space—made contact again with terra firma took place in a field some 15 miles southwest of the town of Engels, in the Saratov region, near Smelovka. Today, the site is marked by a 35-foot-tall (10-meter) obelisk and plaque, inscribed with the legend “Y.A. Gagarin Landed Here.” The formal marker was placed there on 14 April 1961, two days after Gagarin’s historic flight. However, the historic nature of the event had already led someone to erect a small commemorative signpost on the spot, instructing potential trespassers not to remove it and announcing the time of his landing as 10:55 a.m. Moscow Time. Less than two hours had elapsed since Gagarin’s launch … around the same time it would take you or me to watch an average-length Hollywood blockbuster.

Continue reading ‘Poyekhali!’ Remembering Our First Space Voyager (Part 2)

Commentary: A Path to Nowhere and the Absence of Leadership (Part 1)

In the aftermath of the recent geopolitical crisis in Crimea, a series of sanctions has been imposed on Russia by many countries, including the US. Many observers fear that Russia might answer back, by denying to transport US astronauts to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

In the aftermath of the recent geopolitical crisis in Crimea, a series of sanctions has been imposed on Russia by many countries, including the United States. Many observers fear that Russia might answer back, by denying to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

The recent geopolitical tensions resulting from the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine have indirectly helped to reveal in a sobering fashion one of the major problems that has been plaguing the U.S. public space program for many years: the overall lack of foresight and national leadership.

Continue reading Commentary: A Path to Nowhere and the Absence of Leadership (Part 1)

'Poyekhali!' Remembering Our First Space Voyager (Part 1)

Clad in his orange space suit, Yuri Gagain appears pensive in this image recorded during his journey to the launch pad on 12 April 1961. Photo Credit: Roscomos

Clad in his orange space suit, Yuri Gagain appears pensive in this image recorded during his journey to the launch pad on 12 April 1961. Photo Credit: Roscomos

In the early hours of 11 April 1961—more than five decades ago—an enormous booster trundled humanity’s first manned spacecraft to its launch site in a barren region of steppe in Soviet Central Asia. Within its bulbous nose shroud was a ship called Vostok, and it was planned that the following morning the R-7 rocket would blast it into low-Earth orbit, allowing its single cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, to complete one full circuit around the Home Planet. Within two hours of launch, shorter than one of today’s Hollywood blockbusters, it was hoped that Gagarin would be safely home, providing an enormous propaganda coup for the Soviet Union and a hard poke in the eye for the United States. Fifty-three years ago today (12 April 1961), a new era began.

Continue reading ‘Poyekhali!’ Remembering Our First Space Voyager (Part 1)

PHOTOS: Powerhouse Atlas-V Rocket Launches NROL-67 on Secret Mission

A ULA Atlas-v rocket thunders skyward from Cape Canaveral AFS with a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on Thurs., April 10 2014. Mission designate NROL-67. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Alan Walters

A ULA Atlas-v rocket thunders skyward from Cape Canaveral AFS with a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on Thursday, April 10, 2014. Mission designated NROL-67. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Alan Walters

On Thursday, April 10, United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully carried out its 81st mission (and its second in two weeks) with the launch of a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) atop the company’s workhorse Atlas-V rocket. The proven launch vehicle, flying in 541 configuration with a five-meter-diameter payload fairing and four Aerojet Rocketdyne solid rocket motors, came to life and roared out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex-41 at 1:45 p.m. EDT, punching through Florida’s blue skies and delivering NROL-67 as expected.

Continue reading PHOTOS: Powerhouse Atlas-V Rocket Launches NROL-67 on Secret Mission

The Future That Wasn't: The Hermes Spaceplane

Hermes, Europe's spaceplane, is depicted coasting in orbit in an artist's rendering. Image Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

Hermes, Europe’s spaceplane, is depicted coasting in orbit in an artist’s rendering. Image Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

The prose in the 1986 Aerospatiale advertisement was breathless: “10 years old, and still 20 years ahead,” it started. The ad continued, “At Aerospatiale, addressing the exciting aerospace challenges of tomorrow means capitalizing on the daring and innovative technologies we pioneered [in cooperation with British Aerospace] with Concorde … Projects like Hermes, for example.” Next to this hopeful paragraph, a full-color photo showed the supersonic passenger plane Concorde landing, a nod to France’s aviation prowess. The more intriguing image, however, lay to the right: Europe’s spaceplane, Hermes, is seen rendezvousing with a space station in low-Earth orbit. What happened to the future that wasn’t—Europe’s Hermes spaceplane?

Continue reading The Future That Wasn’t: The Hermes Spaceplane

Atlas V Launches Classified NROL-67 Satellite Into Orbit

Not since the flight of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the Curiosity rover in November 2011 has the powerful Atlas V 541 supported a launch. Today's flight of NROL-67 is only the second 541 launch ever conducted by United Launch Alliance. Photo Credit: ULA, with thanks to Mike Barrett

Not since the flight of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the Curiosity rover in November 2011 has the powerful Atlas V 541 supported a launch. Today’s flight of NROL-67 is only the second 541 launch ever conducted by United Launch Alliance. Photo Credit: ULA, with thanks to Mike Barrett

The Eastern Range has returned to flight operations, following a recent fire which impacted a radar tracking asset and forced the postponement of a critical mission for national defense and a cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station (ISS). At 1:45 p.m. EDT Thursday, 10 April, right on the opening of a 41-minute “window,” United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully staged its 81st mission since the company was founded back in December 2006. The mission, which utilized the second-most-powerful active version of the Atlas V launch vehicle—the “541,” equipped with a 17.7-foot-diameter (5.4-meter) payload fairing, four strap-on solid-fueled boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—was tasked with delivering the classified NROL-67 payload into orbit on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Continue reading Atlas V Launches Classified NROL-67 Satellite Into Orbit

'Express Delivery' Progress M-23M Arrives Safely at Space Station - UPDATE

Turning night into day across the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Progress M-23M roars toward orbit after a spectacular liftoff at 9:26 p.m. local time (11:26 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 9 April. Photo Credit: Roscosmos, with thanks to Mike Barrett

Turning night into day across the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Progress M-23M roars toward orbit after a spectacular liftoff at 9:26 p.m. local time (11:26 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 9 April. Photo Credit: Roscosmos, with thanks to Mike Barrett

Russia’s Progress M-23M spacecraft has turned night into day across the Baikonur Cosmodrome, rocketing away from the central Kazakhstan launch site on a six-hour expedited journey to the International Space Station (ISS). Laden with about 5,250 pounds (2,380 kg) of cargo, including foodstuffs, water, propellant, equipment, and supplies for the station’s incumbent Expedition 39 crew, the Soyuz-U booster lifted off precisely on time at 9:26 p.m. local time (11:26 a.m. EDT) Wednesday, 9 April. Shortly after orbital insertion, the Progress spacecraft successfully separated from the third and final stage of the launch vehicle and was in the process of deploying its electricity-generating solar arrays and communications and navigation antennas, ahead of a textbook docking at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Zvezda module at 5:14 p.m. EDT.

Continue reading ‘Express Delivery’ Progress M-23M Arrives Safely at Space Station – UPDATE

A Light in the Dark? Observations of Milky Way's Center Hint at Existence of Dark Matter

A view of the entire gamma-ray sky from the Fermi Space Telescope, shaded to emphasize the center of the Milky Way. The inset is a map of the galactic center with known sources removed, which reveals the gamma-ray excess (red, green and blue) found there. This excess emission is consistent with annihilations from some hypothesized forms of dark matter. Image Credit/Caption: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration and T. Linden (Univ. of Chicago)

A view of the entire gamma-ray sky from the Fermi Space Telescope, shaded to emphasize the center of the Milky Way. The inset is a map of the galactic center with known sources removed, which reveals the gamma-ray excess (red, green, and blue) found there. This excess emission is consistent with annihilations from some hypothesized forms of dark matter.
Image Credit/Caption: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration and T. Linden (Univ. of Chicago)

Are we any closer to discovering the nature of the invisible, elusive substance thought to make up approximately 85 percent of all the mass in the Universe, also known as “dark matter”? According to a team of astronomers which analysed data that had been previously gathered by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope, we may have found some of the first direct evidence for its existence.

Continue reading A Light in the Dark? Observations of Milky Way’s Center Hint at Existence of Dark Matter