Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the B and D truck sections of crawler-transporter 2, or CT-2, are being raised up to prepare for installation of new roller bearing assemblies. Work continues in high bay 2 to upgrade CT-2. The modifications are designed to ensure CT-2’s ability to transport launch vehicles currently in development, such as the agency’s Space Launch System, to the launch pad. Photo Credit: NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis
It will be several years before NASA’s two giant crawler-transporters are put to use again, but work at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been underway for some time to make them ready for NASA’s next generation of human-spaceflight vehicles—the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft—and recently the work done on crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2) passed the first phase of an important milestone test in the behemoth vehicle’s upgrading development.
Continue reading PHOTOS: NASA’s Giant Crawler Goes for a Test Drive, Continues Upgrades for SLS
As Rusty Schweickart performed his EVA from Spider, Dave Scott made a “stand-up” EVA in Gumdrop’s hatch. It was always recognized that in an emergency returning lunar crews might need to transfer by “extravehicular” means from the LM back to the CSM. Photo Credit: NASA
Early on 5 March 1969, 45 years ago this week, two men floated through a 4-foot-long (1.2-meter) tunnel from their command ship into a spider-shaped vehicle whose descendants would soon carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Apollo 9 was not destined to go to the Moon, or even depart Earth orbit, and yet, as noted in yesterday’s history article, its criticality to the goal of planting American bootprints in the lunar dust before the end of the 1960s cannot be underestimated. During their 10 days circling Earth, the crew of Jim McDivitt, Dave Scott, and Rusty Schweickart would prove for the first time that Apollo—as a complete spacecraft, with its conical command module, its cylindrical service module, and its arachnid-like lunar module—was capable of performing as advertised. However, no sooner had they begun work, the first problem reared its head … for one of the astronauts was sick.
Continue reading ‘Does Anyone Read Me?’ 45 Years Since Apollo 9 (Part 2)
The year 1969 was pivotal in so many ways for humanity. At its dawn, American astronauts had newly returned from circling the Moon, and by July it had produced our first piloted landfall on another world. These astonishing achievements continue to resonate today—particularly following 2012′s untimely loss of Neil Armstrong—but there is one mission, flown 45 years ago this week, in March 1969, which is a decidedly unsung hero of the effort to plant bootprints on the lunar surface. It rose no higher than a couple of hundred miles from Earth, it went nowhere near the Moon … and yet, without it, those historic steps at the Sea of Tranquility could not have been taken. The mission was Apollo 9, and for its astronauts it would be forever remembered as a mission of gumdrops and spiders, sickness and golden slippers … and the flight of “The Red Rover.”
Continue reading ‘We Were at War’: 45 Years Since Apollo 9 (Part 1)
Artist’s rendering of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser sharing the runway with Space Shuttle Atlantis—the final shuttle to fly. Image Credit: SNC
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is quietly, but steadily, moving forward swiftly with the development of their reusable Dream Chaser spacecraft, and today SNC announced the successful completion a “flight-profile data review” milestone for Dream Chaser (as is required under the company’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability “CCiCap” agreement with NASA).
Continue reading Dream Chaser Successfully Completes Flight Profile Review, Passes CCiCap Milestone 4A
Illustration showing multiple-transiting planetary systems, such as those found by Kepler. Image Credit: NASA
There was more exciting exoplanet news this week from the Kepler mission: the space telescope has confirmed 715 new exoplanets! This brings the current total number of such worlds to 1,766, of which 961 have been found by Kepler. There are still also 3,601 other Kepler planetary candidates awaiting confirmation.
Continue reading Exoplanet Bonanza: Kepler Confirms More than 700 New Worlds
The joint NASA-JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory lifts off from the Tanegashima Space Centre, atop a H-IIA vehicle. Photo Credit: JAXA, with thanks to Mike Barrett
One of the world’s most reliable launch vehicles—the Japanese H-IIA—has further cemented its credentials by delivering an ambitious mission into orbit to monitor Earth’s precipitation levels in unparalleled depth. The H-IIA lifted off at 3:37:00 a.m. JST Friday, 28 February (1:37:00 p.m. EST Thursday, 27 February) from the Tanegashima Space Centre, situated on the Pacific coastline of southeastern Tanegashima, one of the Ōsumi islands of southern Japan. Less than 24 minutes after launch, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory had been inserted perfectly into an orbit of 253 miles (407 km), where it will observe the two-dimensional and three-dimensional structure of our planet’s precipitation patterns. It will produce a single, comprehensive data set every 2-3 hours and provide a new calibration standard for a “constellation” of international weather-watching missions. In doing so, it forms part of an effort to accurately measure rainfall and snowfall on a global scale and better understand the impact of extreme weather and provide more effective responses to natural disasters.
Continue reading GPM Core Observatory Rockets Into Orbit on Mission to Monitor Global Precipitation
Patrick Hull, left, and Brent Gaddes, right, receive special commendation awards for their work on critical flight hardware for the Orion spacecraft’s first mission later this fall. John Casper, center, Orion special assistant for program integration and a former astronaut, presented the awards at an Orion flight hardware celebration at the Marshall Center.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given
Brent Gaddes and Patrick Hull — engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and graduates of Tennessee Technological University of Cookeville –recently were honored for their work on critical flight hardware for the Orion spacecraft’s first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1.
Continue reading Tennessee Tech Alum Brent Gaddes, Patrick Hull Awarded for Work on Flight Hardware for Orion’s First Flight Test
Luca Parmitano (left) confers with Karen Nyberg, as Chris Cassidy looks on, shortly after concluding their 92-minute EVA-23. Photo Credit: NASA TV
After six months of painstaking work, the NASA Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) has reported its findings, including root and proximate causes, of an incident in July 2013 when water unexpectedly intruded into the helmet of astronaut Luca Parmitano, whilst outside the International Space Station (ISS). As a result, the planned 6.5-hour EVA-23 was terminated, and Parmitano and his spacewalking partner, Chris Cassidy, were summoned back to the station’s Quest airlock after just 92 minutes. At its worst, the water entered Parmitano’s eyes, nose, and mouth, restricting his visibility, hearing, and breathing and, in the words of the MIB, created the harrowing condition of “EVA crewman exposed to potential loss of life.” Moreover, the board’s findings have illustrated worrying cultural and organizational issues within NASA itself.
Continue reading ‘A Condition That Was Life Threatening’: NASA Releases Report Into EVA-23 Water Intrusion Incident
A hearing scheduled by the House Science Committee will attempt to explore the possibility of the first manned SLS/Orion flight in 2021 conducting a Mars-Venus flyby. Could this lead to Dennis Tito’s and Inspiration Mars’ plans becoming a reality? Image Credit: NASA
A hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, scheduled for Feb. 27, aims to explore the feasibility of a flyby of Mars and Venus as a mission concept for the first manned flight of NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, called Exploration Mission-2 or EM-2, in 2021.
Continue reading House Science Committee Hearing to Discuss Mars-Venus Flyby as Mission Proposal for Second SLS Flight in 2021
From the European Space Agency (ESA): “The PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) mission will identify and study thousands of exoplanetary systems, with an emphasis on discovering and characterising Earth-sized planets and super-Earths. It will also investigate seismic activity in stars, enabling a precise characterisation of the host sun of each planet discovered, including its mass, radius and age.” Image Credit: ESA – C. Carreau
A decade from now, a new space observatory will begin its reach for the stars in search of new worlds. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Science Programme Committee announced on Wednesday, February 19, that it has selected the PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars (PLATO) mission for a prospective 2024 launch utilizing a Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle. Coming hot off the heels of discoveries made by other observatories, including NASA’s Kepler and CoRot (the Convection, Rotation, and Planetary Transits mission, led by France’s CNES with contributions from the ESA), this spacecraft is intended to build significantly on our knowledge of the universe, the Solar System, and the formation of life in general.
Continue reading European Space Agency Selects PLATO Observatory for Proposed 2024 Launch