The ULA Delta-IV Heavy in action. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
Thousands of space enthusiasts and spectators are flocking to Florida’s “Space Coast” this week to witness the world’s most powerful rocket launch NASA’s deep space Orion crew capsule on Thursday, Dec. 4 (7:05 a.m. EST liftoff). Hotels throughout Brevard County have been sold out for weeks, and while there are many launch viewing locations available for the public to choose from, some are definitely better than others (follow our LAUNCH TRACKER for regular real-time updates and NASA TV feed throughout the countdown and launch to splashdown).
Continue reading Best Public Viewing Locations to Watch Thursday’s Orion EFT-1 Launch
In the front row, from left are the newest Expedition 42 crew members Anton Shkaplerov, Samantha Cristoforetti, and Terry Virts. In the back are Elena Serova, Commander Barry Wilmore, and Alexander Samokutyaev. They are in the Zvezda service module for a traditional crew greeting ceremony with family and mission officials on the ground. Credit: NASA TV
SPACE STATION WEEKLY UPDATE Nov. 24 – Nov. 30, 2014 — Last week on the International Space Station (ISS) the crew count grew by three after new crew members Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), NASA astronaut Terry Virts, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti arrived to join astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore and cosmonauts Elena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev for Expedition 42. Their week started with a day of rest on Monday before getting to work with business as usual doing research and maintenance, as well as the unloading cargo from the Soyuz.
Continue reading 3-D Printing, New Crew Arrival, and Research Highlight Busy Week on ISS
Artist’s concept of the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission, or JUICE, which is scheduled for launch in 2022. The mission recently passed a major milestone in its development, by being granted approval by ESA to advance towards implementation. Image Credit: ESA/AOES
The detailed study of Jupiter’s fascinating large, icy moons got a step closer with the formal adoption of the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission, or JUICE, by the agency’s Science Programme Committee, earlier this month. This latest development marks a major milestone for the JUICE mission, allowing it to proceed toward implementation in order to meet its scheduled launch date in 2022.
Continue reading ESA’s JUICE Mission Receives Approval to Proceed Toward Implementation
Tim Peake’s Principia mission patch, honoring Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity and the role of the United Kingdom in space exploration. Image Credit: ESA
Honoring one of England’s most famous scientists, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Tim Peake will bear a colorful mission patch on the arm of his Russian-made Sokol (“Falcon”) launch and entry suit when he rockets into orbit on 20 November 2015 to begin a six-month expedition aboard the International Space Station (ISS). His patch, designed by a 13-year-old British schoolboy, following a lengthy competition, was revealed Thursday, 27 November. Although Britons have flown previously aboard Russian and U.S. spacecraft—notably Helen Sharman, way back in May 1991—Peake will become the first astronaut fully sponsored by the U.K. Government ever to journey into space.
Continue reading Newton’s Apple and Soyuz Rocket Grace Tim Peake’s ‘Principia’ Mission Patch
Under EFT-1, Orion will conduct two orbits of the Earth and then return to Earth at a blistering 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h). This test will prove out Orion’s heat shield, parachute, and other crucial systems. Image Credit: NASA
After more than a decade of planning and preparation, excitement, and frustration, NASA is ready to launch the first human-capable vehicle for Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration in more than four decades on Thursday, 4 December. Liftoff of the inaugural Orion spacecraft on the long-awaited Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is targeted to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 7:05 a.m. EST. The “launch window” extends for two hours and 39 minutes and, according to Patrick Air Force Base meteorologists, the weather forecast currently predicts partly cloudy skies, with a 20 percent likelihood of rain and a 10 percent probability of lightning. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace EFT-1 preview article, the mission will be boosted aloft by the most powerful rocket currently in active operational service, anywhere in the world—United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy—which is tasked with delivering the spacecraft to a peak altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 km). Orion will then complete two orbits in 4.5 hours, before plunging back to Earth in excess of 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h) to test the hardiness of its heat shield at near-lunar-return velocities and temperatures of close to 2,200 degrees Celsius (4,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
Continue reading Ready for the High Jump: NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Primed for Maiden Voyage (Part 2)
Artist’s conception of a new high-altitude NASA airship which could make science observations of both the Earth below and stars above. Image Credit: Mike Hughes (Eagre Interactive)/Keck Institute for Space Studies
Airships are a unique form of transportation—giant, balloon-like, lighter-than-air vehicles which can stay aloft for extended periods of time. Their design makes them useful for commercial purposes, such as carrying materials or observations from low to relatively high altitudes. We are familiar with ones like the Goodyear blimp, but now NASA wants to take more advantage of this technology, which could be used for everything from astronomy to monitoring climate change.
Continue reading Stars Above and Earth Below: NASA’s Proposed New Airship Competition Good for Science
Orion’s Crew Module, seen here with its heat shield installed, being maneuvered for stacking on the spacecraft’s Service Module. Photo Credit: NASA
After more than a decade of planning and preparation, excitement, and frustration, NASA is ready to launch the first human-capable vehicle for Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) exploration in more than four decades on Thursday, 4 December. Liftoff of the inaugural Orion spacecraft on the long-awaited Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is targeted to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 7:05 a.m. EST. The “launch window” extends for two hours and 39 minutes. The mission will be boosted aloft by the most powerful rocket currently in active operational service, anywhere in the world—United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV Heavy—which is tasked with delivering the spacecraft to a peak altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 km). Orion will then complete two orbits in 4.5 hours, before plunging back to Earth in excess of 20,000 mph (32,000 km/h) to test the hardiness of its heat shield at near-lunar-return velocities and temperatures of close to 2,200 degrees Celsius (4,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
Continue reading Ready for the High Jump: NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Primed for Maiden Voyage (Part 1)
A visualization of the Earth’s radiation belts, based on data that were gathered by NASA’s twin Van Allen probes. The Earth is seen to be surrounded by the plasmapause (blue-green area) and the two main radiation belts further out (multi-color area). The boundary between the plasmapause and the inner edge of the outer belt form a boundary that blocks the highest-energy electrons inside the outer belt from reaching the Earth’s surface. Image Credit: Image Credit:
NASA/Goddard/Scientific Visualization Studio
Earlier this week, millions of Americans on Earth, as well as those living off it, came together to celebrate Thanksgiving—a time-honored holiday tradition of expressing gratitude for life’s blessings. Yet one thing that everyone on Earth should be thankful for is the protection offered by a nearly impenetrable barrier in space that was recently discovered inside our planet’s radiation belts, which prevents all the very high-energy electrons that are trapped inside them from reaching the surface and pose a threat to life.
Continue reading NASA’s Van Allen Probes Detect Life-Protective Electron Barrier Inside Earth’s Radiation Belts
Inside a giant clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the pathfinder telescope, a practice section of the James Webb Space Telescope, stands fully assembled. Teams of engineers built and aligned the pathfinder telescope to rehearse assembly and testing before the actual telescope is built. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MD — The mammoth mirror tripod assembly that is a key structural element of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is undergoing critical action-packed testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and AmericaSpace was onsite recently for a first-hand look to observe some of the work in progress.
JWST is NASA’s top-priority science mission launching in this decade and is the most powerful telescope ever built.
Continue reading NASA Webb Telescope’s Mammoth Mirror Tripod Gets Tested in Action
From the Project Apollo Image Archive: “Alfred Worden waves to ground personnel at Patrick Air Force Base prior to taking off on a training flight in a T-38 aircraft, July 24, 1971.” An Apollo veteran, Worden recently discussed Orion and the future of spaceflight with AmericaSpace. Photo Credit: The Project Apollo Archive/NASA
Imagine being an Air Force test pilot from rural Michigan, and being selected to take part in one of mankind’s greatest adventures. In his book Falling to Earth (co-written with Francis French, published by Smithsonian Books), “Original Nineteen” NASA astronaut and Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden wrote: “Only twenty-four humans have left Earth orbit and journeyed to the Moon. I’m one of them. It’s an exclusive club, so small that I am still surprised they let me in. After all, hundreds of people have traveled into space. Yet most people have never strayed beyond low Earth orbit. Our little group traveled a great deal farther – more than a thousand times farther … In short, we were lucky.”
Worden’s autobiography is filled with candid tales about his life’s adventures, particularly his time at NASA. It’s no surprise he is opinionated about the future of space, including the deep space-oriented Orion program, which will undergo an Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) Thursday, Dec. 4. Next week’s flight, which has been likened most to November 1967’s Apollo 4 mission, will serve as a test of Orion’s systems and heat shield.
Continue reading An Apollo Veteran Talks Orion and the Future of Space: An Interview With Al Worden