Raytheon's US Student Rocketry Team Wins International Rocketry Challenge and Encourages Youth in STEM

Team from left to right [front row] Mark Keaton (coach), Chelsea Suddith, Katie Burns, Cady Studdard Back row Tracy Burns (mentor), Evan Swinney, Andrew Heath, Niles Butts, Cristian Ruiz, Joseph Cole (coach).

Team from left to right [front row] Mark Keaton (coach): Chelsea Suddith, Katie Burns, Cady Studdard. Back row: Tracy Burns (mentor), Evan Swinney, Andrew Heath, Niles Butts, Cristian Ruiz, Joseph Cole (coach). Image Credit: Raytheon

Team America took home the gold after winning first place in the International Rocketry Challenge at the 2015 Paris Air Show. The U.S. team, called the RCS Engineers, from Russellville, Ala., consists of seven students from Russellville City Schools ranging in ages from 13 to 17 years old. The diverse group of aspiring engineers beat teams from the United Kingdom (second) and France (third). They were responsible for designing, building, and launching a rocket reaching an altitude of exactly 800 feet within a 46- to 48-second flight window. Raytheon Company supported RCS Engineers after winning the Team America Rocketry Challenge in May and helped fund their trip to Paris to compete for the international title. AmericaSpace had an opportunity to interview the team and hear about their experience competing in the global rocketry challenge.

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NAVY's 7.5-Ton MUOS-4 Satellite Arrives in Florida for August Launch on Most Powerful Atlas-V

On June 28, MUOS-4, the next satellite scheduled to join the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) secure communications network, shipped to Cape Canaveral from Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California. Launch is currently scheduled for no earlier than August 27. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

On June 28, MUOS-4, the next satellite scheduled to join the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) secure communications network, shipped to Cape Canaveral from Lockheed Martin’s satellite manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. Launch is currently scheduled for no earlier than Aug. 27. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

The fourth in a Lockheed Martin-built, five-ship fleet for a next-generation, narrowband tactical military satellite communications system has arrived in Florida for its August launch. The U.S. NAVY’s 7.5-ton Mobile User Objective System-4 (MUOS-4) arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft via Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facility and nearby Moffett Federal Airfield on June 28, courtesy of the 60th Air Mobility Wing of Travis Air Force Base.

“MUOS allows troops all over the world to talk, text and share mission data seamlessly, while traveling, like a cellular network, without having to worry about where they are in relation to a satellite,” said Iris Bombelyn, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for narrowband communications. “MUOS-4 will complete our near global coverage, reaching further north and south toward the poles than ever before.”

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The Case of the Helium-Shrouded Exoplanet With the Hydrogen, Comet-Like Tail

An artist's concept of the vast envelope of atomic hydrogen that envelopes the nearby helium-dominated exoplanet Gliese 436b. The radiation pressure from the planet's host star causes the gradual escape over time of significant amounts of hydrogen from Gliese 436b's atmosphere into space, which subsequently forms a large comet-like tail that follows the planet in its orbit around its star. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

An artist’s concept of the vast envelope of atomic hydrogen that envelopes the nearby helium-dominated exoplanet Gliese 436b. The radiation pressure from the planet’s host star causes the gradual escape over time of significant amounts of hydrogen from Gliese 436b’s atmosphere into space, which subsequently forms a large comet-like tail that follows the planet in its orbit around its star. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

The field of exoplanetary research has revealed an unexpected plethora of very different and strange types of planets around other stars during the last 20 years, from scorching hot, massive hot-Jupiters to super-Neptune-type, “puffy” planets to solid terrestrial ones several times bigger than our home planet, which are mostly made of diamond and graphite. Now, astronomers are adding one more strange type of alien worlds into the mix: that of comet-like, helium-rich, hot-Neptunes which experience a severe loss of their atmospheric hydrogen into space.

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Boeing CST-100 and ULA Atlas-V Crew Access Tower Taking Shape at Cape Canaveral Launch Site

The first crew access tower tiers begin to take shape at Space Launch Complex-41 for flights aboard the Boeing CST-100. Credits: NASA/Cory Huston

The first crew access tower tiers begin to take shape at Space Launch Complex-41 for flights aboard the Boeing CST-100. Credits: NASA/Cory Huston

In 2017 the United States will once again see the return of American human spaceflight to our own shores, courtesy of SpaceX and Boeing and their Dragon and CST-100 crew capsules. Boeing, however, is NASA’s primary crew contract winner, receiving a much larger piece of the multi-billion-dollar pie to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard their CST-100 capsule ($4.2 billion for Boeing and $2.6 billion for SpaceX).

With two years left before an expected inaugural launch there is still a lot of work to be done, but one visible sign of progress at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the new Boeing/ULA (United Launch Alliance) crew access tower now being built just down the road from ULA’s Atlas Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41), which is where Boeing’s flights will take place from atop the proven ULA Atlas-V rocket.

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New 'Forever Remembered' Exhibit Pays Tribute to Challenger and Columbia Crews STS-51L and STS-107

 

"Forever Remembered" at KSCVC pays tribute to the fourteen fallen astronaut heroes who sacrificed their lives during America's 30-year Space Shuttle Program. Photo Credit: Talia Landman / AmericaSpace

“Forever Remembered” at KSCVC pays tribute to the 14 fallen astronaut heroes who sacrificed their lives during America’s 30-year space shuttle program. Photo Credit: Talia Landman / AmericaSpace

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave.” – President Ronald Reagan

There was not a dry eye in the house Saturday morning when Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Director Bob Cabana and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden formally opened a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC). The exhibit titled “Forever Remembered” honors the lives of the crews on space shuttle missions STS-51L and STS-107 and the orbiters Challenger and Columbia that were both lost during America’s 30-year space shuttle program. NASA and the families of the fallen astronauts worked together to create the exhibit, which accurately displays their lives and personalities.

The memorial contains personal items from both of the crews, as well as jaw-dropping recovered remnants of both orbiters never been seen by the public. 

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Two Weeks to Pluto: New Horizons and New Perspectives (Part 2)

Technicians working on the New Horizons spacecraft in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Photo Credit: NASA/KSC

Technicians working on the New Horizons spacecraft in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The black shape of the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) is clearly visible at left. Photo Credit: NASA/KSC

Sixteen days from now, the first robotic emissary from Earth will encounter the dwarf world Pluto, its large binary companion Charon, and a system of at least four tiny moons: Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx. In doing so, NASA’s New Horizons mission—led by Principal Investigator (PI) Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Space Studies Dept. in Boulder, Colo.—will bring full-circle humanity’s first-time reconnaissance and exploration of each of the traditionally accepted nine planets in the Solar System; although Pluto was officially demoted to the status of dwarf planet in 2006, fierce debate continues to rage about its nature. In recent days, our resolution of this tiny world has grown clearer, from distant, monochromatic images of a body of highly contrasting albedo ranges to the first views in near-true color of the Pluto-Charon duo in motion. As our spacecraft draws closer to its target, AmericaSpace’s New Horizons Tracker and a series of articles by Mike Killian, Leonidas Papadopoulos, and myself will follow the spacecraft’s progress as it seeks to make this unknown world known.

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Falcon 9 Fails, Dooming Dragon Cargo Ship and First Commercial Crew Docking Adapter

Close to the end of first-stage flight, the nine Merlin 1D engines appeared to flare, ahead of vehicle disintegration. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Close to the end of first-stage flight, the nine Merlin 1D engines appeared to flare, ahead of vehicle disintegration. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Following 18 successful launches since June 2010, the heart was torn from SpaceX earlier today (Sunday, 28 June), following the disintegration of a Falcon 9 v1.1 booster during its flight to deliver the CRS-7 Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS). Launched on time at 10:21:00 a.m. EDT, the mission carried 4,116 pounds (1,867 kg) of pressurized cargo for the incumbent Expedition 44 crew of Commander Gennadi Padalka and One-Year crewmen Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, as well as NASA’s first International Docking Adapter (IDA-1) for Commercial Crew support. The vehicle appeared to enjoy a largely flawless first-stage flight, but at T+139 seconds—seemingly from nowhere—the plumes of the nine Merlin 1D engines flared and the vehicle disintegrated, depositing debris across a huge area on the Melbourne Weather Radar. Speaking at a press conference, hosted at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Sunday afternoon, key SpaceX, NASA and FAA officials expressed sorrow at the failure and declared their determination to identify the root cause and return to flight within months. At the same time, AmericaSpace understands that both SpaceX and NASA were aware of an issue associated with liner cracking, close to the liquid oxygen tank “dome” on the Falcon 9 v1.1’s second stage, although it remains to be seen if this was a factor in today’s accident.

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'To Work Co-operatively': 20 Years Since the First Shuttle-Mir Docking Mission (Part 4)

Mir Commander Vladimir Dezhurov (left) and STS-71 Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson shake hands after hatch opening on 29 June 1995. Photo Credit: NASA

Mir Commander Vladimir Dezhurov (left) and STS-71 Commander Robert “Hoot” Gibson shake hands after hatch opening on 29 June 1995. Photo Credit: NASA

Two decades have passed, this week, since one of the most remarkable instances of international co-operation ever seen in human history. For 10 days, between 27 June and 7 July 1995, six U.S. astronauts and four Russian cosmonauts—and thousands of engineers, managers, scientists, families, and friends who supported them and made their mission possible—completed the first docking between a space shuttle and the Mir orbital station. Unlike the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) in July 1975, this was not a “standalone” mission of détente, but the beginning of an era which would see two former foes join forces in support of a common goal. That goal bore fruit over the following years, with the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), and as noted in a proclamation signed by the 10-strong crew: “The success of this endeavor demonstrates the desire of these two nations to work co-operatively to achieve the goal of providing tangible scientific and technical rewards that will have far-reaching effects to all people of the Planet Earth.”

Continue reading ‘To Work Co-operatively': 20 Years Since the First Shuttle-Mir Docking Mission (Part 4)

Two Weeks to Pluto: New Horizons and New Perspectives (Part 1)

A timeline (click to enlarge) detailing New Horizons long journey to Pluto. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

A timeline detailing New Horizons long journey to Pluto. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

The “Month of Pluto” is now upon us, as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft—launched atop an Atlas V 551 booster from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., way back in January 2006—enters the final two weeks before its long-anticipated rendezvous with the dwarf world Pluto, its large binary companion Charon, and a system of at least four tiny moons: Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx. In doing so, New Horizons will bring full-circle humanity’s first-time exploration of each of the traditionally accepted nine planets in the Solar System; although Pluto was officially demoted to the status of dwarf planet in 2006, fierce debate continues to rage about its nature. Over the coming days, as our resolution of Pluto grows clearer, as our first close-range maps begin to take shape and as a tidal wave of scientific data floods back to Earth across a gulf of more than 2.9 billion miles (4.8 billion km), AmericaSpace’s New Horizons Tracker and a series of articles by Mike Killian, Leonidas Papadopoulos, and myself will follow the spacecraft’s progress as it seeks to make this unknown world known.

Continue reading Two Weeks to Pluto: New Horizons and New Perspectives (Part 1)

'To Work Co-operatively': 20 Years Since the First Shuttle-Mir Docking Mission (Part 3)

Russia's space station Mir, as pictured by the crew of STS-71. Photo Credit: NASA

Russia’s space station Mir, as pictured by the crew of STS-71. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, today, on 27 June 1995, a new era began. Space Shuttle Atlantis rocketed into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, as she had done 13 times previously, over the course of almost a full decade. Since her maiden voyage, she had embarked on a chequered career, flying more classified Department of Defense assignments than any of her sister orbiters, delivering both the Magellan and Galileo planetary spacecraft on their long voyages to Venus and Jupiter, supporting multiple Extravehicular Activities (EVAs), and deploying more than a dozen discrete satellites for science, reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering, and communications. Yet on 27 June 1995, Atlantis’ mission was quite different, for STS-71 would attempt a feat for which the shuttle had always been intended: the docking and exchange of crew members aboard an Earth-circling space station. What could hardly have been anticipated, just a few years earlier, however, was that she would dock not at the U.S.-led Space Station Freedom … but at Russia’s Mir orbital outpost. The remarkable 10 days of STS-71 would cement an unlikely partnership which, despite political differences, endures to this day.

Continue reading ‘To Work Co-operatively': 20 Years Since the First Shuttle-Mir Docking Mission (Part 3)