Don Peterson, First Shuttle Spacewalker, Dies Aged 84

 

Don Peterson (right) eats and confers with Commander Paul “P.J.” Weitz during STS-6. Weitz died last year. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Veteran astronaut Don Peterson, who flew aboard STS-6, the maiden voyage of orbiter Challenger, performed the first-ever spacewalk from the shuttle airlock and might—had the hands of fate turned differently—have launched to the Air Force’s classified Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), died Sunday (27 May). He was 84. Coming only days after the passing of Apollo Moonwalker and Skylab veteran Alan Bean, Peterson’s death deprives the world of yet another member of the “old guard” of pioneering U.S. astronauts. “So sad to report that we have lost another member of the astronaut family,” the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) noted Monday on its Facebook page. “Fair skies and tailwinds, Don.”

Continue reading Don Peterson, First Shuttle Spacewalker, Dies Aged 84

'Tally-Ho the Skylab': The Mission to Save America's Space Station, 45 Years On

The multiple docking adaptor and Apollo Telescope Mount (top left) of Skylab, viewed from the crew of the first visiting mission. Photo Credit: NASA

Four decades have now passed since one of the most dramatic reversals in fortune in American space history: the salvation of Skylab. On 14 May 1973, America’s first space station was launched into orbit atop the final Saturn V booster, but an unfortunate sequence of events led to the premature deployment of its micrometeoroid shield, which was promptly ripped away in the supersonic airstream, together with one of two solar arrays. The other solar array was so clogged with debris that it was “pinned” to the side of the station. For ten days, engineers battled to come up with a workable plan whereby Skylab’s first crew—Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Science Pilot Joe Kerwin and Pilot Paul Weitz—could effect a successful repair and keep the crippled station on the straight and narrow.

Continue reading ‘Tally-Ho the Skylab’: The Mission to Save America’s Space Station, 45 Years On

Moonwalker, Skylab Commander and Lunar Artist Alan Bean Dies, Aged 86

At 2013’s Skylab 40th anniversary event, astronaut Alan Bean (with microphone) talks to crewmate Jack Lousma, flanked by fellow astronauts. Photo Credit: Emily Carney

Alan Bean, the fourth man to set foot on the lunar surface—and the second Moonwalker to pass in 2018—has died, aged 86, after suddenly falling ill while on travel in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks ago. With his passing, the world has now lost eight of the 12 sons who left their bootprints in the lunar dust, with only Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt still with us. During his career, Bean became the first astronaut from his class to draw a command assignment and, after his Moon landing, went on to command America’s Skylab space station, stood in reserve for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) and acted as deputy chief of the astronaut office, before retiring to devote his life to painting. “Life is a dance,” he once said. “You learn as you go.”

Continue reading Moonwalker, Skylab Commander and Lunar Artist Alan Bean Dies, Aged 86

‘Drill, Baby, Drill!’: Curiosity Rover Successfully Tests New Drilling Technique on Mars

Curiosity has successfully tested a new drilling technique in a rock target called Duluth. This is the first successful drilling since December 2016 after mechanical problems with the drill. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After many months of testing and devising new techniques since experiencing mechanical problems, NASA’s Curiosity rover is finally drilling again! The latest test this past weekend proved a success, producing the first drill hole in a rock in over a year. So it seems that the rover may now be ready to resume regular drilling operations again, which had been routine until the problems arose in December 2016.

Continue reading ‘Drill, Baby, Drill!’: Curiosity Rover Successfully Tests New Drilling Technique on Mars

Cygnus Arrives at Space Station with 7,400 Pounds of Fresh Supplies and Science

After transiting Australia & the atolls of Indonesia, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus arrives to the International Space Station with 7,400 pounds of fresh supplies and science. Photo Credit: NASA / Astronaut Ricky Arnold via Twitter

Orbital ATK’s un-crewed Cygnus cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this morning, following launch from Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia on May 21. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer and NASA Astronaut Scott Tingle successfully captured Cygnus using the Space Station’s Canadian-made robotic arm (named Canadarm2), and was backed by fellow NASA Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, who both conducted a 6.5 hours spacewalk last week.

Continue reading Cygnus Arrives at Space Station with 7,400 Pounds of Fresh Supplies and Science

Cooling Problem May Jeopardize NOAA's New GOES-17 Weather Satellite

GOES-S (now GOES-17) undergoing final launch processing in the Astrotech clean room in Titusville, Florida. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The nation’s brand new game-changing GOES-17 meteorological satellite (formerly GOES-S), launched in early March 2018, has hit a snag in its on-orbit commissioning. The problem is a performance issue recently discovered with the cooling system of the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, which is integral for the ABI to function properly.

Continue reading Cooling Problem May Jeopardize NOAA’s New GOES-17 Weather Satellite

New Aerojet ISE-100 Engine for Potential Moon Landings Completes Hot Fire Testing

Hot-fire test of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s ISE-100 thruster conducted at the company’s Redmond, Washington test facility. Photo: Aerojet Rocketdyne

As the United States sets its sights back on the moon, various hardware needed to make such missions a reality are being designed and tested across the aerospace industry. Aerojet Rocketdyne, for example, recently completed hot-fire testing of a new low-cost, high-thrust space engine called the ISE-100, which could become a critical element for future lunar robotic missions for both NASA and the commercial space industry.

Continue reading New Aerojet ISE-100 Engine for Potential Moon Landings Completes Hot Fire Testing

SpaceX Iridium-6 and GRACE-FO Launch a 'Complete Success' Says Iridium CEO

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It shared it’s ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. Photo Credit: NASA

UPDATE MAY 23 @ 8:45am EDT: New photos added and updates on spacecraft operations since launch and deployment in orbit. “We have good telemetry from all 5 Iridium NEXT satellites – and got it on the first pass,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch on Twitter after launch. “Thank you SpaceX, thank you Thales Alenia. Complete success!” 

Telemetry from both GRACE-FO satellites meanwhile indicates that both are healthy. For the next few days they will be in different orbits, one slightly lower than the other. The different orbits cause them to move apart until the lower satellite is 137 miles (220 kilometers) in front of the other, the optimal separation distance for their measurements. At that point, the lower satellite will be moved up into the same orbit as the higher satellite. After these maneuvers, the mission begins an 85-day in-orbit checkout phase. Mission managers will evaluate the instruments and satellite systems and perform calibration and alignment procedures. After that, the satellites will begin gathering and processing science data. The first science data are expected to be delivered to users in about seven months.

Continue reading SpaceX Iridium-6 and GRACE-FO Launch a ‘Complete Success’ Says Iridium CEO

SpaceX to Launch 7 Satellites into Different Orbits Tuesday, Attempt Fairing Recovery

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the next five Iridium NEXT global mobile communications satellites to orbit, along with the NASA / German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX is the final stages of preparing for a launch attempt on Tuesday, May 22, to deliver the next five Iridium NEXT global mobile communications satellites to orbit, along with a pair of formation-flying, gravity-measuring NASA spacecraft. Liftoff atop an already flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket, used previously to launch the classified ZUMA mission earlier this year, is scheduled for precisely 12:47:58 pm PDT (19:47:58 UTC) from Vandenberg AFB, California.

Weather is looking very good for Tuesday, and everything else is on schedule“, said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Corp., looking ahead at SpaceX’s tenth commercial flight out of the mountain-ringed launch site.

Continue reading SpaceX to Launch 7 Satellites into Different Orbits Tuesday, Attempt Fairing Recovery

Antares Launches Ninth Cygnus Cargo Delivery Mission to Space Station

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, May 21, 2018 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani

Orbital ATK’s tenth Cygnus cargo ship successfully roared away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday, 21 May. Designated “OA-9”, it was the tenth overall launch of a Cygnus, when one includes its ORB-D “demonstration” mission, back in September 2013. However, confusing the picture still further, the loss of one mission in October 2014 makes OA-9 the ninth time that one of these heavyweight cargo ships has successfully reached space. Within minutes, the liquid-fueled Antares 230 booster successfully boosted OA-9 and its 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of cargo, payloads and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS), where it is due to arrive on Thursday, 24 May.

Continue reading Antares Launches Ninth Cygnus Cargo Delivery Mission to Space Station