AmericaSpace Launch Countdown

Next Launch ABS 3A on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFB, FL
scheduled for:
2 Mar 15 3:50:00 GMT
1 Mar 15 22:50:00 EST

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Workhorse Progress Freighter Set to Launch to Space Station on Tuesday

A Progress cargo ship approaches the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

A Progress cargo ship approaches the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

The continuous relay of unpiloted resupply craft visiting and departing the International Space Station (ISS) is expected to continue Tuesday, with the launch of Russia’s Progress M-26M atop a Soyuz-U booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff of the mammoth Soyuz-U and the Progress—which is laden with around 5,000 pounds (2,270 kg) of equipment and supplies for the incumbent Expedition 42 crew—is presently scheduled to occur from Baikonur’s Site 31/6 at 5:00:17 p.m. local time (6:00:17 a.m. EST), kicking off a well-trodden six-hour, four-orbit “fast rendezvous” profile to reach the space station. Upon docking at the aft longitudinal port of the Zvezda module, Progress M-26M will remain at the ISS through the end of August.

Continue reading Workhorse Progress Freighter Set to Launch to Space Station on Tuesday

Remembering the Life and Legacy of Roger Chaffee on His 80th Birthday

Roger Chaffee (right) was the only rookie member of the Apollo 1 crew, joining Commander Virgil "Gus" Grissom (left) and Senior Pilot Ed White (center). Photo Credit: NASA

Roger Chaffee (right) was the only rookie member of the Apollo 1 crew, joining Commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom (left) and Senior Pilot Ed White (center). Photo Credit: NASA

Roger Bruce Chaffee—who would have turned 80 today (Sunday, 15 February)—has been out of this world for far longer than he was ever in it. His life was tragically snuffed out on the evening of 27 January 1967, killed in a horrific fire aboard the Apollo 1 command module on Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy. At the time, Chaffee was barely three weeks shy of his 32nd birthday and just a month away from becoming the youngest American to venture into space at that time. Indeed, had he flown Apollo 1, Chaffee’s accomplishment would have made him the youngest-ever U.S. spacefarer to ride a U.S. spacecraft in history—a record he may have continued to hold until this very day. His story is a fascinating epic of a rising star, cut down in his prime, and the nature and timing of his death is a mournful reflection upon a career tragically shortened and a life lost too soon.

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Mapping Planet Earth: 15 Years Since STS-99 (Part 2)

The Outboard Antenna of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) extends 200 feet (60 meters) into space atop a mast extended from Endeavour's payload bay. Photo Credit: NASA

The Outboard Antenna of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) extends 200 feet (60 meters) into space atop a mast extended from Endeavour’s payload bay. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifteen years ago, this week, the six-member crew of STS-99—Commander Kevin Kregel, Pilot Dom Gorie, and Mission Specialists Janet Kavandi, Janice Voss, Germany’s Gerhard Thiele, and Japan’s Mamoru Mohri—embarked on the $220 million Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) to assemble the most comprehensive maps of Earth to date. As described in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history article, SRTM utilized radar “interferometry,” with a pair of antennas positioned 200 feet (60 meters) apart, one in the payload bay and the other at the end of a deployable mast, and its successful deployment on the first day of the 11-day mission gave Thiele cause for great relief. In time, SRTM would generate 750,000 confirmed users of its data by mid-2011, and its resources have been accessed by people in no less than 221 discrete countries.

Continue reading Mapping Planet Earth: 15 Years Since STS-99 (Part 2)

Curiosity Spied From Orbit by Mountain Drilling Base Where Ancient Water Flowed on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover conducts 5th Martian sample drilling campaign at “Mojave 2” rock target in this composite photo mosaic from Sols 864 to 889 showing the robotic arm deployed on Sol 889, Feb. 5, 2015 to the “Pink Cliffs" portion of the "Pahrump Hills" rock outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp, seen in the distance.  Arm stowed at left.  Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Inset top right shows Curiosity imaged from Mars by NASA’s MRO orbiter.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity on Mars from Above and Below
NASA’s Curiosity rover conducts fifth Martian sample drilling campaign at “Mojave 2” rock target in this composite photo mosaic from Sols 864 to 889. The mosaic shows the robotic arm deployed on Sol 889, Feb. 5, 2015 to the “Pink Cliffs” portion of the “Pahrump Hills” rock outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp, seen in the distance. Arm stowed at left. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Inset top right shows Curiosity imaged from Mars orbit by NASA’s MRO spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

The most powerful “eyes” above Mars sailing aboard one of NASA’s Red Planet orbiters has captured a majestic new view of NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover at work below in the region where she is currently surveying spectacular other worldly terrain and drilling into sedimentary rock outcrops altered by ancient Martian water.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) caught Curiosity at the “Pahrump Hills” area of the Gale Crater landing site.

Continue reading Curiosity Spied From Orbit by Mountain Drilling Base Where Ancient Water Flowed on Mars

Mapping Planet Earth: 15 Years Since STS-99 (Part 1)

Computer-generated image of Endeavour performing radar observations with instruments in her payload bay and affixed to the deployable Outboard Antenna on STS-99. Image Credit: NASA

Computer-generated image of Endeavour performing radar observations with instruments in her payload bay and affixed to the deployable Outboard Antenna on STS-99. Image Credit: NASA

At the dawn of the year 2000, more precise radar maps existed of Venus—thanks to NASA’s Magellan imaging spacecraft—than of our own Home Planet. Although areas of Earth had been digitally mapped at resolutions of 100 feet (30 meters), the vast majority of the world lacked such reliable data, primarily due to cloud cover in equatorial regions, which precluded imaging by optical satellites or aircraft. “Humans always want to know about their environment,” said German astronaut Gerhard Thiele, “and for the first time we will generate a coherent data set; a picture of the Earth.” Fifteen years ago, this week, Thiele and his five STS-99 crewmates launched aboard Endeavour on the ambitious $220 million Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), tasked with utilizing an innovative technique to assemble the most comprehensive maps of our world to date. Although it has since been enhanced by more modern technologies, SRTM had generated 750,000 confirmed users of its data sets by mid-2011 and its resources have been accessed by people in 221 countries.

Continue reading Mapping Planet Earth: 15 Years Since STS-99 (Part 1)

Exploring an Alien Sea: NASA Designs Submarine to Send to Titan

Artist's conception of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design. Much like submarines on Earth, the sub would explore the depths of one of Titan's methane/ethane seas. Image Credit: NASA

Artist’s conception of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design. Much like submarines on Earth, the sub would explore the depths of one of Titan’s methane/ethane seas. Image Credit: NASA

Who wouldn’t want to go explore an alien sea? It seems that NASA would certainly like to, and the agency has unveiled a new submarine design to hopefully do just that one day. The submarine would be sent to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, to dive into one of the large liquid methane seas on the moon’s frigid surface; such a mission idea may sound like science fiction, but it’s not, and would be the first ever to explore a sea on another world which is both Earth-like in some ways, yet utterly alien in others.

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Opportunity Roves Nearly a Marathon Runner's Distance on Mars

NASA Opportunity Rover look ahead to Marathon Valley and Martian cliffs on Endeavour crater holding deposits of water altered clay minerals science treasure on Feb. 10, 2015.  Rover operates well after 11 Years trekking Mars.   This pancam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3927 (Feb. 10, 2015) and colorized.  Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

NASA Opportunity Rover looks ahead to Marathon Valley and Martian cliffs on Endeavour crater holding deposits of water altered clay minerals science treasure on Feb. 10, 2015. Rover operates well after 11 Years trekking Mars. This pancam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images taken on Sol 3927 (Feb. 10, 2015) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Opportunity has roved nearly the distance of a marathon runner’s race across the alien and rugged surface of Mars since she touched down on the fourth rock from the Sun 11 years ago!

As of today, Feb 12, NASA’s Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover is less than 220 yards (200 meters) shy of driving the equivalent of an Olympic marathon race during her 3930th Sol, or day, alive on the Red Planet and overlooking spectacular crater cliffs. See the view from Mars Today in our new photo mosaics herein. Since her mission was only planned to last for 90 Sols, she is 132 months into her three-month mission.

Continue reading Opportunity Roves Nearly a Marathon Runner’s Distance on Mars

New Technique Provides Better, Clearer Radar Images of Titan's Amazing Surface

Radar view of Ligeia Mare, a large hydrocarbon sea on Titan. The original version is on the left and the enhanced, "despeckled" version is on the right. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

Radar view of Ligeia Mare, a large hydrocarbon sea on Titan. The original version is on the left and the enhanced, “despeckled” version is on the right. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

Saturn’s largest moon Titan is a fascinating world, uniquely alien yet eerily Earth-like in many ways, with its rain, rivers, lakes, seas, and massive sand dunes. But in this extremely cold environment, it is liquid methane and ethane which act as “water,” mimicking the hydrological cycle on Earth. Also, due to the perpetual and global hazy cloud cover, the only way to see these features from orbit is by using radar, which is what the Cassini spacecraft has done on a regular basis for quite a few years now. As good as they are, though, the radar images contain electronic noise, which reduces sharpness and clarity. But now a new technique is letting planetary scientists see Titan’s surface more clearly than ever before.

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'Third Time Lucky': SpaceX Successfully Launches DSCOVR on Three-Month, Million-Mile Trek to L1

After more than a decade of delay and disappointment, Triana has risen again as the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), rocketing into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 booster at 6:03 p.m. EST Wednesday. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

After more than a decade of delay and disappointment, Triana has risen again as the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), rocketing into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 booster at 6:03 p.m. EST Wednesday. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Following two scrubs in three days, caused by a combination of problematic high-level winds and a glitch with an Air Force Range radar asset, Wednesday proved third time lucky for SpaceX, as it successfully launched its second Falcon 9 v1.1 booster of 2015 from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Restricted to an “instantaneous” launch window—as dictated by the nature of its primary payload, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a joint partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—everything seemed at last to fall into place for SpaceX and the Falcon rose from Earth at 6:03:32 p.m. EST, powered by 1.3 million pounds (590,000 kg) of thrust from its nine Merlin 1D first-stage engines. Despite the disappointing news that high seas precluded a landing atop the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), the launch of DSCOVR marks SpaceX’s most distant mission to date.

Continue reading ‘Third Time Lucky': SpaceX Successfully Launches DSCOVR on Three-Month, Million-Mile Trek to L1

Like Superman: ESA's IXV Spaceplane Makes Successful Research Flight

AND IT'S OFF: A Vega launch vehicle lofts ESA's IXV spaceplane to its suborbital mission. Photo Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

AND IT’S OFF: A Vega launch vehicle lofts ESA’s IXV spaceplane to its suborbital mission. Photo Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

It wasn’t Superman, but a spaceplane; however, it sure appeared to travel “faster than a speeding bullet,” as it cleared the pad in four seconds.

At 13:40 GMT (8:40 EST) today, the flight of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) was underway as the spaceplane’s Vega launch vehicle leaped off a pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. According to ESA, IXV then embarked on a “flawless reentry,” providing the space agency with valuable data aiding future spaceflights during its 100-minute mission. The mission was also described as a “milestone” for Vega, which was introduced in 2012 as a launch vehicle for small payloads headed to low-Earth and polar orbits.

Continue reading Like Superman: ESA’s IXV Spaceplane Makes Successful Research Flight