AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch GPS IIF-8 on a Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
29 Oct 14 17:21:00 GMT
29 Oct 14 13:21:00 EDT

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NASA’s New MAVEN Probe Tantalizes Scientists With Unprecedented First Science Results From Mars

Three views of an escaping atmosphere, obtained by MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph. By observing all of the products of water and carbon dioxide breakdown, MAVEN's remote sensing team can characterize the processes that drive atmospheric loss on Mars.   Credit:   University of Colorado/NASA

Three views of an escaping atmosphere, obtained by MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph. By observing all of the products of water and carbon dioxide breakdown, MAVEN’s remote sensing team can characterize the processes that drive atmospheric loss on Mars. Credit: University of Colorado/NASA

NASA’s new MAVEN Mars orbiter has taken a series of unprecedented images in its first science campaign since achieving orbit barely three weeks ago and delivered results that are “tantalizing” scientists with the rich rewards expected to come from a spacecraft that has been a decade in the making.

Continue reading NASA’s New MAVEN Probe Tantalizes Scientists With Unprecedented First Science Results From Mars

Arianespace Ready to Launch Ninth Mission of 2014 on Thursday, 16 October

Arianespace Ariane 5 French Guiana ESA Ariane 5 rocket GSAT 1 image credit Arianespace posted on AmericaSpace

Mission VA-220 will be powered uphill by the Vulcain-2 engine of the cryotechnic main stage and twin side-mounted solid-fuelled rocket boosters. Photo Credit: ESA – CNES Arianespace Optique video du CSG JM Guillon

For the fifth time in 2014, Arianespace is readying one of its mammoth Ariane 5 boosters to deliver a heavyweight payload into orbit. Mission VA-220—the 76th flight by an Ariane 5 and the 220th overall flight by a member of Arianespace’s rocket family—is scheduled to roar aloft from the ELA-3 (Ensemble de Lancement Ariane) launch complex at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, on the evening of Thursday, 16 October. The launch “window” extends from 6:00 p.m. until 7:51 p.m. GFT (5:00 p.m. until 6:51 p.m. EDT), and VA-220 will deliver the Intelsat-30 (also known as “DLA-1,” for “DirecTV Latin America”) and ARSAT-1 communications satellites into geostationary orbit, at an altitude of approximately 22,000 miles (35,000 km). The latter will represent Argentina’s first geostationary communications satellite. Counting one Vega and three Soyuz launches, Thursday’s mission will represent the ninth overall flight by Arianespace in 2014.

Continue reading Arianespace Ready to Launch Ninth Mission of 2014 on Thursday, 16 October

Roberto Vittori, Last European Shuttle Flier, Turns 50 Today

Roberto Vittori (right), who turns 50 today, is pictured with fellow Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli in Europe's Columbus laboratory, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2011. Photo Credit: NASA

Roberto Vittori (right), who turns 50 today, is pictured with fellow Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli in Europe’s Columbus laboratory, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2011. Photo Credit: NASA

Only six Italian citizens in human history have ventured beyond the thin veil of Earth’s atmosphere and into space, and today (Wednesday, 15 October) marks the 50th birthday of Roberto Vittori, the only one of his countrymen to have flown as many as three times into space, the first European to fly twice to the International Space Station (ISS), and the last European to travel into orbit aboard the shuttle. In May 2011, Vittori served as Mission Specialist Two on STS-134, the final voyage of Endeavour, which delivered the long-awaited Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS)-2 to the station. Having been selected and trained alongside NASA’s 1998 class of astronauts, Vittori also participated in a pair of Soyuz visiting missions to the station in April 2002 and April 2005 and accrued more than 35 days in orbit, making him the third most experienced Italian spacefarer of all time.

Continue reading Roberto Vittori, Last European Shuttle Flier, Turns 50 Today

All-Navy Spacewalk Team Set for Ambitious EVA-28 on Wednesday

Barry "Butch" Wilmore (left) and Reid Wiseman will perform EVA-28 tomorrow, the first U.S. spacewalk since November 2008 to feature an all-Navy crew. Photo Credit: NASA

Barry “Butch” Wilmore (left) and Reid Wiseman will perform EVA-28 tomorrow, the first U.S. spacewalk since November 2008 to feature an all-Navy crew. Photo Credit: NASA

Just eight days after EVA-27, U.S. spacewalkers will again depart the Quest airlock tomorrow (Wednesday, 15 October) to install a replacement Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU) onto the starboard truss of the International Space Station (ISS) and remove and relocate cameras and other equipment in anticipation of next year’s movement of the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) and the arrival of Commercial Crew vehicles from 2017 onward. Expedition 41 astronauts Reid Wiseman (designated “EV1,” with red stripes on the legs of his space suit for identification) and Barry “Butch” Wilmore (“EV2,” wearing a pure-white suit) are expected to leave Quest at about 8:15 a.m. EDT, and their tasks should require approximately 6.5 hours. Both men represent the U.S. Navy—Wiseman is a commander, Wilmore a captain—and this will be the first all-Navy U.S. EVA since the spacewalks of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen on shuttle mission STS-126 in November 2008.

Continue reading All-Navy Spacewalk Team Set for Ambitious EVA-28 on Wednesday

Astronomers Create Most Detailed Weather Map Yet of an Exoplanet

Graphic depicting how WASP-43b orbits its star, always keeping the same hemisphere facing the star, much like how the Moon always keeps the same hemisphere facing the Earth. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

Graphic depicting how WASP-43b orbits its star, always keeping the same hemisphere facing the star, much like how the Moon always keeps the same hemisphere facing the Earth. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

Being able to find exoplanets orbiting distant stars is a major accomplishment in itself, and fine-tuning the data enough to discover details about the characteristics of those planets is quite another. Not an easy task. Astronomers have had some initial success, but now they have been able to create the most detailed weather map for any exoplanet so far.

Continue reading Astronomers Create Most Detailed Weather Map Yet of an Exoplanet

Mission to Jupiter: 25 Years Since the Launch of Galileo (Part 2)

Atlantis roars into orbit on 18 October 1989 to deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter. Photo Credit: NASA

Atlantis roars into orbit on 18 October 1989 to deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its mission to Jupiter. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, next week, shuttle mission STS-34 and the crew of Atlantis rocketed into orbit to launch NASA’s Galileo spacecraft on a lengthy odyssey to Jupiter. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, the mission was extensively delayed, by political and technical issues—including the Challenger tragedy—and almost met with outright cancellation, when anti-nuclear protesters campaigned against the use of its plutonium-powered Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). However, after considerable rain, on the wet morning of 18 October 1989, the five astronauts departed their crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), bound for Pad 39B and Atlantis.

Continue reading Mission to Jupiter: 25 Years Since the Launch of Galileo (Part 2)

NASA's NuSTAR Telescope Discovers 'Impossible' Ultra-Luminous Pulsar

NASA's NuSTAR telescope recently discovered an ultra-luminous X-ray source (shown in the pink area in the circle) inside the nearby galaxy M82. This newly-discovered X-ray source was found to be powered by an extremely luminous pulsar, which produces the energy equivalent of 10 million Suns. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s NuSTAR telescope recently discovered an ultra-luminous X-ray source (shown in the pink area in the circle) inside the nearby galaxy M82. This newly-discovered X-ray source was found to be powered by an extremely luminous pulsar, which produces the energy equivalent of 10 million Suns. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our ever-more-detailed study of the Universe has showcased that the latter seems not to adhere to our man-made definitions and classifications of celestial objects in distinct and different categories, but prefers continuity, as evidenced by the recent discoveries of asteroids with comet-like tails, planet-like brown dwarfs, as well as the detection of water ice sublimation on dwarf planet Ceres—a process which is the hallmark of comets, as the latter approaches close to the Sun. A similar continuity can be found among other astrophysical objects as well, like high-energy novae and gamma-ray sources, and among the different types of active galactic nuclei. Now, a new study by an international team of astronomers makes another addition to the list, that of an ultra-luminous, X-ray source which packs the power of a massive black hole, yet is a pulsar.

Continue reading NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope Discovers ‘Impossible’ Ultra-Luminous Pulsar

NASA Gears Up Science Fleet for Once-In-A-Lifetime Flyby of Oort Cloud Comet With Mars

Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) hurtling towards encounter at Mars on Oct. 19, 2014 in this artist's concept. Credit: NASA

Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) hurtling towards encounter at Mars on Oct. 19, 2014 in this artist’s concept. Credit: NASA
See cool encounter animation below

One week from today, NASA’s Red Planet armada is primed and ready with front row seats for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study an Oort cloud comet, as it makes an extremely close flyby of Mars on Sunday, Oct. 19. It misses the planet by a mere 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) on its first passage ever through the inner Solar System during its millions-year-long orbital trek from the distant fringes of our Sun’s realm.

Continue reading NASA Gears Up Science Fleet for Once-In-A-Lifetime Flyby of Oort Cloud Comet With Mars

Mission to Jupiter: 25 Years Since the Launch of Galileo (Part 1)

Emblazoned with the script-like "Galileo" lettering and the block "NASA" letters, the spacecraft represented a marriage of romance and adventure with science and technology for STS-34's Shannon Lucid. Photo Credit: NASA

Emblazoned with the script-like “Galileo” lettering and the block “NASA” letters, the spacecraft represented a marriage of romance and adventure with science and technology for STS-34’s Shannon Lucid. Photo Credit: NASA

When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989—25 years ago, next week—on the first leg of its voyage to Jupiter, the sight was a moving one for Shannon Lucid. As STS-34’s lead mission specialist, she was primarily responsible for the deployment of one of the most important payloads ever launched by NASA. For almost a dozen years, Lucid had lived and worked with the reality that her job was an overwhelmingly technical one, drawing from its roots in engineering and pure science … but on this day, as Galileo and its Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster floated silently into the inky void, she beheld a new reality: the romance of adventure. Emblazoned across the base of the spacecraft which would one day circle Jupiter and deposit an instrumented probe into its atmosphere were two names: “Galileo” in script and “NASA” in worm-like block capitals. To Lucid, those two words symbolized exactly what the mission stood for: The script represented the romance of adventure and exploration, whilst the worm was indicative of the outstanding engineering and scientific talent which had brought this awesome project from the drawing board to fruition. Yet Galileo’s journey to the launch pad had been a long and tortured one, and its voyage to Jupiter would be longer and harder still.

Continue reading Mission to Jupiter: 25 Years Since the Launch of Galileo (Part 1)

Opportunity Mars Rover Presses On Toward Rich Science Targets Despite Episodic Amnesia

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover peers out towards Ulysses crater, ejecta rocks and Martian plains beyond  from her crater rim location on Sept. 18, 2014.  This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3787, Sept. 18, 2014 and colorized.  Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover peers out toward Ulysses crater, ejecta rocks, and Martian plains beyond from her Endeavour crater rim location on Sept. 18, 2014. Notice dramatic wheel tracks (right) as rover ascends steep crater slopes. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3787, Sept. 18, 2014 and colorized.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

She’s the rover that just won’t quit!

Opportunity remains hard at work today after more than 3,800 continuous Sols (days) of operation on the utterly inhospitable surface of the alien world we call Mars as an emissary from Earth.

Despite recent recurring episodes of “amnesia” ascribed to her advanced age, NASA’s long-lived Red Planet rover Opportunity is pressing on toward a scientific goldmine as she traverses southward along the ridgeline of the enormous Martian crater named Endeavour she’s been exploring for the past three years. See view from current location in our photo mosaic above showing dramatic wheel tracks as rover ascends steep crater slopes.

Continue reading Opportunity Mars Rover Presses On Toward Rich Science Targets Despite Episodic Amnesia