Tomorrow’s U.S. EVA-33 will be the second spacewalk in just nine days for Expedition 45 astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter/Kimiya Yui
Barely a week since their first career spacewalk together, Expedition 45 astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly will venture outside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station (ISS) at approximately 7:15 a.m. EST tomorrow (Friday, 6 November) for around 6.5 hours to restore the cooling system of the P-6 segment—the furthest-outboard port-side element of the vast, 356-foot-long (108.5-meter) Integrated Truss Structure (ITS)—to its original configuration, following several years of efforts to isolate ammonia leakages and replace suspect hardware components. Known as P-6 Return to Original Configuration (RTOC), the spacewalk (designated “U.S. EVA-33”) will see Lindgren designated “EV1,” with red stripes on the legs of his space suit, and Kelly as “EV2,” clad in a pure-white suit. This alternates their respective roles following last week’s EVA. According to Lead EVA-33 Officer Art Thomason, speaking at a media briefing at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, on 22 October, the decision will ensure that both Kelly and Lindgren gain experience in the EV1 lead-spacewalker role. A similar expertise-gathering exercise was seen during EVA-30 on 25 February and EVA-31 on 1 March, when Expedition 42 spacewalkers Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts alternated roles.
Continue reading Expedition 45 Spacewalkers Set to Restore Troublesome P-6 Cooling System to ‘Default Setting’
An artist’s concept of the free-floating planet PSO J318.5-22. Astronomers have found evidence that the planet is covered with clouds which rain down molten metals, even in the coldness of interstellar space. Image Credit: MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz
We tend to define planets as objects that need a star around which to revolve. Yet, as the history of astronomical research has shown time and again, the Universe doesn’t seem to care much for such clear-cut definitions. Scattered across the vast distances of interstellar space, there are alien worlds which freely roam in the perpetual darkness that reigns between the stars. These free-floating, or “rogue” planets as they are better known, have been an active topic of research in recent years, offering astronomers the chance to further study the processes that drive exoplanetary formation and evolution, while helping them to better constrain the line that separates massive planets in general from the “failed stars” known as brown dwarfs. A new study by an international team of astronomers has for the first time managed to detect what appears to be possible weather patterns on such a rogue extrasolar planet, indicating that far from being dead and frozen celestial husks, these alien worlds are as equally fascinating as their more “proper” planetary siblings which bask in the warmth and light of other stars.
Continue reading New Study Suggests Cloudy Weather and Molten Metal Downpours on Rogue Exoplanet
False-color mosaic of Cumberland Ridge, with pie charts representing iron-bearing mineralogy. Image Credit: S. Cole, PhD thesis; background image: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Arizona State University; Moessbauer values from Morris et al. 2008 (doi: 10.1029/2008JE003201)
The various rover and lander missions on Mars have provided unprecedented glimpses into the planet’s past, including geological history and environmental conditions. In many ways, ancient Mars was similar to Earth, with abundant water and volcanic activity. Now, new research has revealed that there was also another related Earth-like phenomenon: acid fog.
Continue reading Data From Spirit Rover Provides Evidence for Acid Fog on Ancient Mars
Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff with the Orb-3 mission for NASA. Photo Credit: Elliot Severn
One year after Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket suffered a launch failure that destroyed their third commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, NASA’s Independent Review Team has published their official accident investigation report. Over the last year, NASA has worked alongside Orbital ATK and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine the cause of the accident and give recommendations for avoiding future mishaps. Due to the proprietary nature of the engineering data used in the investigation and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the full report is not available to the public. However, NASA was able to publish an executive summary of the report, which outlines the conclusions of their investigation.
Immediately after the accident, NASA set up the Independent Review Team with approval from the FAA in order to carry out an independent analysis of the accident and compare results with Orbital ATK’s internal Accident Investigation Board. Orbital ATK gave NASA access to all their telemetry, launch imagery, and physical evidence so they could determine the root cause of the accident.
Continue reading NASA Concludes Antares Orb-3 Investigation as Cygnus Prepares for Return to Space Station on Atlas-V
XCOR engineers are hard at work assembling and testing critical components of the Lynx reusable launch vehicle. Photo Credit: XCOR Aerospace
XCOR Aerospace, a spacecraft and rocket engineering company, is developing a new spacecraft that will take paying customers to the edge of space. The exciting suborbital vehicle is taking shape and meeting critical milestones at the company’s Hangar 61 in Mojave, Calif. Starting with the mounting of the primary nose structure, the company has been busy performing fit checks and tests on the many important parts that make up the Lynx reusable launch vehicle.
Continue reading XCOR’s Lynx Reusable Launch Vehicle Approaches Completion
The International Space Station (ISS) celebrates its 15th anniversary of continuous human occupation today (Monday, 2 November). Photo Credit: NASA
No crystal anniversary gifts were exchanged among the Expedition 45 crew—Commander Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Volkov, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Japan’s Kimiya Yui—today (Monday, 2 November), even though their orbital home, the International Space Station (ISS) passed 15 years since the arrival of its first long-duration crew. Instead, a press conference with media from the United States, Russia and Japan allowed the six men to respond to a broad series of questions, ranging from how their lives converged onto a spacefaring career to the levels of maintenance required on the steadily aging station and their hopes for the future.
Continue reading NASA Observes 15 Years of Unbroken Residency Aboard International Space Station
Ever since NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft exited the heliosphere and made the passage to interstellar space, scientists were perplexed by the spacecraft inconsistent measurements of the galactic magnetic field that lies outside of the Sun’s magnetosphere. A new study shows that these inconsistencies are caused by the deflection of the galactic magnetic field lines from the solar one, at the boundary of the heliopause. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
For several years, scientists had been expecting NASA’s iconic Voyager 1 spacecraft to cross the boundary that separates the Sun’s magnetosphere from the rest of the galaxy and make its long-anticipated jump to interstellar space. Having long completed its epic exploration of the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn and its systems of dozens of moons during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and after achieving a Sun-escape velocity from its various close flybys with the outer planets, Voyager 1 was ultimately bound for the open sea of interstellar space. When that historic milestone was finally reached in 2012, scientists and space enthusiasts alike appropriately celebrated humanity’s first foray outside of the Solar System, while eagerly awaiting the spacecraft’s in-situ measurements on what lay beyond. But when that data started coming in, celebration partially gave way to confusion, as several of Voyager’s measurements couldn’t quite clarify the spacecraft’s exact whereabouts in respect to the Sun’s magnetic field. It would take yet one more year for scientists to finally confirm Voyager’s long-awaited interstellar exodus. Now, a new study by a research team in the U.S. comes to answer the reasons behind the initial confusion regarding Voyager’s passage to interstellar space and further validate that the intrepid spacecraft has indeed said farewell to our little corner of the galaxy and has already set sails for the great beyond.
Continue reading Scientists Solve Mystery Surrounding Voyager 1’s Passage to Interstellar Space
The Expedition 1 crew (from left) of Yuri Gidzenko, Bill Shepherd and Sergei Krikalev spent more than 136 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) during their 140-day mission between October 2000-March 2001. Photo Credit: NASA
Fifteen years ago, tomorrow, the first team of astronauts and cosmonauts arrived at the infant International Space Station (ISS) to begin a new era; one which would see no fewer than 220 humans from 17 sovereign nations living and working in low-Earth orbit on a continuous, unbroken basis. In so doing, they would provide our current best-possible analog for someday voyaging to Mars. As outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd of NASA and his Russian crewmates, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, roared away from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s Site 1/5—the same launch pad at which Yuri Gagarin commenced his pioneering voyage—atop a mammoth Soyuz-U booster on the cold and foggy afternoon of 31 October 2000. Two days later, Gidzenko guided their Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft to a smooth docking at the aft longitudinal port of the station’s Zvezda service module. It was with an air of pioneers that Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev kicked off a 4.5-month expedition which, as of today (Sunday, 1 November), has seen humans living and working in an off-the-planet setting for no less than 5,477 days. And with last year’s decision by the International Partners (IPs) to continue permanent ISS habitation through at least 2024, it can be expected that this figure will dramatically increase to a minimum of 8,400 days, approaching a quarter-century of cumulative time in orbit.
Continue reading ‘We Can Do This’: 15 Years Since Expedition 1 Opened the Doors to the International Space Station (Part 2)
An image mosaic of Europa taken from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, showing the moon’s famous “chaos terrain” of linear cracks and ridges that crisscross almost its entire surface. A new research by a team of U.S. astronomers has identified a previously unseen set of minerals along Europa’s chaos terrain, which are thought to have originated from the moon’s underground liquid water ocean. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
What lies under the ice, deep in Europa’s alien waters? This has been one of the most burning questions among planetary scientists and space enthusiasts alike, ever since NASA’s Galileo mission helped to establish during the late 1990s that Jupiter’s intriguing icy moon hosts a vast underground ocean of liquid water. Even though a definitive answer to this question is still several decades away, waiting for a future dedicated lander that will finally scoop up and study Europa’s icy sediments up-close, scientists have nevertheless made great progress in their understanding of the distant moon through the years by utilising some of the most advanced ground-based telescopes in operation today. A new study from a team of planetary scientists in the U.S. offers more credence to this hypothesis by showing that the moon’s famous surface “chaos terrain,” where the underground liquid ocean is thought to come into contact with the icy surface, features a distinct chemical composition that is unique on the entire moon, suggesting that it is composed of underground material that has risen to the surface. These regions on Europa offer a unique opportunity to study its internal makeup and can be considered as prime targets for a future robotic lander mission.
Continue reading Astronomers Identify New Substances on Europa of Possible Underground Origin
Launch of the Air Force GPS 2F-11 satellite atop a ULA Atlas-V rocket on Oct. 31, 2015, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace
The Halloween launch of the Air Force/Boeing GPS 2F-11 satellite on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket begins a season of change for ULA and its new military space competitor SpaceX, who wants to hand ULA its head in future Air Force competitions. Space launch management reorganizations at both ULA and the Air Force are part of the looming ULA versus SpaceX competition.
ULA this week made wholesale changes in its launch and marketing management as part of an effort to shrink management by 30 percent while bringing in new outside expertise to lead the company.
Continue reading Air Force and ULA Reorganize for Competition as Atlas-V Launches GPS 2F-11 Satellite