AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch AFSPC-4 on a Delta 4 - Medium+ rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL scheduled for 28 Jul 14 22:43:00 GMT

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Air Force Certifies SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.1 as Having Flown Three Successful Flights, Paves Way for Full Certification by End of 2014

The SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, seen here launching Thaicom-6 last Jan., is now certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch Government payloads. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / John Studwell

The SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, seen here launching Thaicom-6 last January, is now certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch Government payloads. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / John Studwell

Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is now one more step closer to earning full certification of its Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket to launch high-priority government payloads, as the U.S. Air Force has now officially certified the company’s launcher as having flown three successful consecutive flights. The three-flight certification now paves the way for SpaceX to complete the full certification process by end of 2014 to begin competing for award of those big-money government launch contracts starting in 2015.

Continue reading Air Force Certifies SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.1 as Having Flown Three Successful Flights, Paves Way for Full Certification by End of 2014

Antares Successfully Launches ORB-2 Cygnus Mission to Space Station

Antares rumbles away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday, 13 July. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

Antares rumbles away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday, 13 July. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

After many delays, Orbital Sciences Corp. has successfully launched its second dedicated Cygnus cargo mission toward the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the two-stage Antares booster, carrying Cygnus—whose mission, designated “ORB-2”, is named in honor of the late NASA astronaut Janice Voss—took place on time at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday, 13 July, from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. Within ten minutes of leaving Earth, Antares had boosted Cygnus into an initial orbit of 125 x 185 miles (200 x 300 km), inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator, allowing the unpiloted craft to begin deploying its solar arrays and communications appendages, ahead of rendezvous and berthing at the ISS on Wednesday morning.

Continue reading Antares Successfully Launches ORB-2 Cygnus Mission to Space Station

'Totally Different Moon': 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 2)

To Mike Collins, the contrast between the iridescence of life on Earth and the barren, forbidding nature of the Moon was striking and profound. Photo Credit: NASA

To Mike Collins, the contrast between the iridescence of life on Earth and the barren, forbidding nature of the Moon was striking and profound. Photo Credit: NASA

When Apollo 11 and its three-man crew—Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin—rose into space 45 years ago, this week, on the morning of 16 July 1969, they embarked on the grandest adventure ever undertaken in human history: the first piloted voyage to the surface of the Moon. Yet, strangely, even after surviving a tumultuous launch atop the Saturn V rocket, performing the translunar injection burn, and entering the mysterious region between Earth and the Moon, known as “cislunar space,” the main part of the mission had yet to begin. Their mission would really start after Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) on 19 July, and the series of increasingly bold and epochal events thereafter.

Continue reading ‘Totally Different Moon’: 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 2)

Riding on Interstellar Winds: New Solar Outburst Confirms NASA's Voyager 1 Spacecraft Has Exited Heliosphere

Recent measurements of plasma waves at the vicinity of Voyager 1, confirm previous results which showed that the spacecraft has exited the heliosphere and entered interstellar space. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Recent measurements of plasma waves at the vicinity of Voyager 1 confirm previous results which showed that the spacecraft has exited the heliosphere and entered interstellar space. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


“Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze.”

 Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot” (1994)

 

In the last couple of years, there had been considerable uncertainty as to whether NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft had crossed the boundary separating the Sun’s magnetic sphere of influence, better known as the heliosphere, from interstellar space. Previous data from Voyager’s onboard instruments provided the first compelling evidence that the spacecraft had crossed that boundary in August 2012, signaling perhaps one of the greatest achievements in the history of our species. New readings of the spacecraft’s surroundings, taken earlier this year, have now come to confirm that the venerable robotic explorer has indeed exited the vast region around the Sun that is dominated by the solar wind, and is now guided by the interstellar winds in the uncharted open sea of interstellar space.

Continue reading Riding on Interstellar Winds: New Solar Outburst Confirms NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft Has Exited Heliosphere

'All Engines Running': 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 1)

Captured from a remote camera, this ghostly image records the instant of our species' first steps into the Universe around us. Even humanity's first footfalls on the Red Planet or any other world in the years to come, nothing can ever match the history-making audacity of what Neil Armstrong achieved one hot summer's night in 1969. Photo Credit: NASA

Captured from a remote camera, this ghostly image records the instant of our species’ first steps into the Universe around us. Even humanity’s first footfalls on the Red Planet or any other world in the years to come, nothing can ever match the history-making audacity of what Neil Armstrong achieved one hot summer’s night in 1969. Photo Credit: NASA

Early in July 1969, Jan Armstrong called her friend, Lurton Scott, for help. Only a few days remained before her husband, Neil, blasted off in command of the most pivotal space mission in history: Apollo 11, the voyage which would attempt the first piloted landing on the Moon. Lurton, the wife of astronaut Dave Scott, and Jan had remained good friends ever since their husbands flew together aboard Gemini VIII in March 1966. Jan had already been invited to watch the Apollo 11 launch from a motor cruiser, owned by North American Aviation and moored in the Banana River, and with Scott’s help and contacts she was able to fly from Houston to Cape Kennedy in a corporate jet. When she arrived in Florida, Jan beheld an astonishing, though unsurprising, sight: Over a million people crowded the roads and causeways of the Cape, anxiously awaiting an event whose significance which would never be seen again in their lifetimes. Forty-five years ago, this week, the first human explorers set sail to make our species’ first landfall on the Moon.

Continue reading ‘All Engines Running’: 45 Years Since Apollo 11 Changed the World (Part 1)

Propulsion Issues Put Plans for 'Vintage' ISEE-3 Spacecraft on Ice

From the ISEE-3 Reboot Project: "An artist's rendering depicts the satellite ISEE-3/ICE during its planned lunar fly-by in August 2014." Image Credit: Mark Maxwell/ISEE-3 Reboot Project

From the ISEE-3 Reboot Project: “An artist’s rendering depicts the satellite ISEE-3/ICE during its planned lunar fly-by in August 2014.” Image Credit: Mark Maxwell/ISEE-3 Reboot Project

While the spacecraft may have been frozen in time, the excitement over its reawakening was brand new.

But the effort to re-purpose the long-dormant International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft for an extended science mission hit a snag this week when it was announced that issues with propulsion had developed during a scheduled burn. On the reboot mission’s website, it was theorized that a lack of pressurized nitrogen available in the hydrazine propulsion system may be the culprit. Plans to send the spacecraft back to a desired “halo orbit” at the L1 Sun-Earth Lagrangian point do not appear to be in the cards at this time (ISEE-3 was the first spacecraft to achieve this orbit).

Continue reading Propulsion Issues Put Plans for ‘Vintage’ ISEE-3 Spacecraft on Ice

Janice Voss Returns to Space as ORB-2 Cygnus Stands Ready for Sunday Launch to ISS

Impressive view of the Antares vehicle (left) and the ORB-2 Cygnus, encapsulated within its bulbous payload shroud, pictured in the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at Wallops. Photo Credit: Ken Kremer

Impressive view of the Antares vehicle (left) and the ORB-2 Cygnus, encapsulated within its bulbous payload shroud, pictured in the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at Wallops. Photo Credit: Ken Kremer

Six months since it last lofted a Cygnus cargo vessel toward the International Space Station (ISS), Orbital Sciences Corp. is primed to fly the second mission (designated “ORB-2″) under its $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Liftoff of the company’s two-stage Antares booster—making its fourth flight in less than 15 months—is presently scheduled to occur from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 12:52 p.m. EDT Sunday, 13 July. Assuming an on-time launch, the already long-delayed ORB-2 flight should produce a rendezvous and berthing at the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the station’s Harmony node on Wednesday, 16 July. Named in honor of the late shuttle astronaut Janice Voss, Cygnus will remain attached to the ISS until mid-August and will deliver 3,293 pounds (1,493.8 kg) of equipment and supplies to the incumbent Expedition 40 crew.

Continue reading Janice Voss Returns to Space as ORB-2 Cygnus Stands Ready for Sunday Launch to ISS

Curiosity Celebrates One Martian Year on Mars, Roves Outside Landing Ellipse

1 Martian Year on Mars!  Curiosity treks to Mount Sharp in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 669, June 24, 2014 -  the day the rover celebrated 1 Martian year since touchdown on the Red Planet. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

1 Martian Year on Mars!
Curiosity treks to Mount Sharp in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 669, June 24, 2014, the day the rover celebrated one Martian year since touchdown on the Red Planet. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

NASA’s intrepid rover Curiosity is celebrating a pair of milestone achievements in her epic trek across the floor of Gale Crater to reach the foothills of mysterious Mount Sharp on a quest to elucidate the history of Martian habitability.

Continue reading Curiosity Celebrates One Martian Year on Mars, Roves Outside Landing Ellipse

Titan's Hidden Ocean Might Be as Salty as the Dead Sea

Illustration of what Titan's interior is thought to look like, with a rigid ice shell above the salty water ocean below. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Illustration of what Titan’s interior is thought to look like, with a rigid ice shell above the salty water ocean below. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturn’s moon Titan is known for its methane seas, lakes, and rivers; surprisingly Earth-like in appearance yet distinctly alien at the same time. But there is also evidence for another ocean, this one of water, below the surface. Little is known about this hidden watery world, but now new results suggest it is likely very saltyas much as the Dead Sea on Earth.

Continue reading Titan’s Hidden Ocean Might Be as Salty as the Dead Sea

Astronomers Discover First Ever Terrestrial Exoplanet in Earth-Type Orbit, Around Red Dwarf Binary Star System

An artist's rendering of the newly discovered exoplanet OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb (far right) orbiting one star (right) of a binary red dwarf star system, from an Earth-type distance of approximately 0.9 Astronomical Units away. Image Credit: Cheongho Han, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea

An artist’s rendering of the newly discovered exoplanet OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb (far right) orbiting one star (right) of a binary red dwarf star system, from an Earth-type distance of approximately 0.9 Astronomical Units away. Image Credit: Cheongho Han, Chungbuk National University, Republic of Korea

The discovery of yet another exoplanet orbiting outside of the habitable zone of its star hardly seems newsworthy these days, given the routine nature of new exoplanet findings. Having already discovered thousands of alien worlds within the Milky Way galaxy showcasing a huge diversity in mass, size, orbital characteristics, and possible habitability, astronomers are now focused on finding a true “Earth analog”: a terrestrial planet in an Earth-type orbit, around an Earth-like star. Working toward that goal, four collaborating international teams of astronomers have recently announced the discovery of a seemingly inconspicuous cold terrestrial exoplanet around a binary red dwarf star system. What makes this discovery significant, however, is that this newly found alien world is the first to have an orbit of approximately 1 Astronomical Unit, or AU, from its host star, which is the same distance between the Earth and Sun, indicating that such Earth-type orbits might indeed be common in other exoplanetary systems as well.

Continue reading Astronomers Discover First Ever Terrestrial Exoplanet in Earth-Type Orbit, Around Red Dwarf Binary Star System