John Glenn to Return to Space 'In Spirit' on ISS-Bound OA-7 Cygnus Cargo Mission

Friday’s OA-7 mission will be the third Cygnus to be delivered to orbit via a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V. Photo Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly/Twitter

Denied a second spaceflight by then-President John F. Kennedy, reportedly on account of his value to the nation as America’s first man to orbit the Earth, Astronaut John Glenn will launch on his third mission on Tuesday, 18 April, aboard a modern incarnation of his old Atlas rocket. His space-time tally—which currently consists of a five-hour Mercury mission in February 1962 and a nine-day Space Shuttle flight in the fall of 1998—will be extended on a three-month-plus voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).

At least, that is, in spirit.

Last month, Orbital ATK revealed that its next ISS-bound Cygnus cargo mission to the ISS will be named in his honor. “Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, was a lifelong pioneer of human spaceflight,” it recently announced. “Glenn paved the way for America’s space program, from Moon missions to the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. His commitment to America’s human spaceflight program and his distinguished military and political career make him an ideal honoree for the OA-7 mission.”

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Adding Backbone to the Space Station: 15 Years Since STS-110 (Part 1)

Rex Walheim works on the installation of S-0 truss connections during EVA-1. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifteen years ago, on the morning of 8 April 2002, U.S. astronaut Jerry Ross—veteran of seven space missions and seven spacewalks—settled into orbit aboard shuttle Atlantis, having just launched from Earth more times than any other human being. Ross had previously held the record for the greatest number of previous spaceflights at six, jointly shared with Story Musgrave, Franklin Chang-Diaz and Curt Brown, as well as John Young. Yet on his record-breaking seventh mission into low-Earth orbit, Ross would continue to break records, raising his number of Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) to nine and securing himself as the most experienced U.S. spacewalker at that time. Even today, he sits in third place on the list of the world’s most seasoned spacewalkers.

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Firing Up the Shuttle: 25 Years Since the Last Flight Readiness Firing (Part 2)

Each Flight Readiness Firing (FRF) presented the opportunity to extensively test the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) in as close to real-flight operations. Photo Credit: NASA

A quarter-century ago, on 6 April 1992, the roar of three Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) echoed across the marshy landscape of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, as Endeavour showcased her muscle, ahead of her maiden voyage into orbit. Built as a replacement for her lost sister, Challenger, the new vehicle would go on to fly 25 missions—supporting the first (and only) three-person spacewalk, servicing the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and building the International Space Station (ISS)—and cement her credentials as the fourth-most-flown member of the shuttle fleet. Within 22 seconds of Main Engine Start, her engines fell silent, as planned, to close out the final Flight Readiness Firing (FRF).

Continue reading Firing Up the Shuttle: 25 Years Since the Last Flight Readiness Firing (Part 2)

Firing Up the Shuttle: 25 Years Since the Last Flight Readiness Firing (Part 1)

Before each orbiter’s maiden voyage, the Space Shuttle Program completed a Flight Readiness Firing (FRF) of the three main engines. The last FRF, by Endeavour, occurred 25 years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA

“T-minus 31 seconds…Endeavour’s four redundant computers have primary control of critical vehicle functions for the remainder of the count…”

Twenty-five years ago, Space Shuttle Endeavour—built in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster to replace her fallen sister—sat on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, only weeks ahead of her maiden voyage into orbit. In time, Endeavour would cement her credentials by flying 25 missions, including history’s only three-person Extravehicular Activity (EVA), the critical first servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and launching the initial components of the International Space Station (ISS). Yet on the morning of 6 April 1992, three weeks after rolling out to Pad 39B, Endeavour’s trio of Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) were test-fired in what wound up as the seventh and last Flight Readiness Firing (FRF) in the 30-year shuttle program.

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Nearing the End: Cassini Prepares for Spectacular 'Grand Finale' Orbits at Saturn

Cassini is now entering the Grand Finale phase of the mission, which will end on Sept. 15, 2017, after the spacecraft plunges between the planet and rings 22 times. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn has been one of the most successful and awe-inspiring ever, studying the giant ringed planet and its many moons since 2004. But now, scientists are preparing for what everyone knew would come eventually – the end of Cassini’s excursions throughout the Saturn system. Yesterday, NASA held a news conference to celebrate what Cassini has accomplished and outline what will happen during the next few months, culminating with the end of the mission in September.

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New Horizons Reaches Halfway Point Between Pluto and Next KBO Target

New Horizons is now halfway from Pluto to its next destination – the KBO known as 2014 MU69, which it will reach on Jan. 1, 2019 (artist’s conception). Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

It may not seem like it, but it is approaching two years now since New Horizons made its historic flyby of Pluto and its moons in July 2015. But even though it has been quiet since then, the mission continues, as the spacecraft is now preparing for its next flyby of another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) on Jan. 1, 2019 – and now New Horizons has reached the halfway point between Pluto and the next target, called 2014 MU69. It’s another major milestone for a mission that gave us our first close-up views of the Pluto system, and revealed worlds utterly alien and unique in the Solar System.

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PHOTOS: First Reused Orbital Rocket in History Makes Sunrise Return to Cape Canaveral

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 arriving into Port Canaveral this morning after launching (and landing) its SECOND mission just days ago (SES-10), the first orbital rocket in history to be reused. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

The first orbital rocket in history to be reused is now docked in Port Canaveral, having made a sunrise arrival this morning into the Cape after successfully launching the SES-10 satellite from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A just days ago.

As is becoming the norm for SpaceX, the company successfully landed the booster on their droneship, “Of Course I Still Love You” just minutes after launch, triumphantly showing all who have said they couldn’t fly reused boosters, that in fact, yes they can – and they just did.

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Take a Sneak Peek Inside Blue Origin's Crew Capsule

A sneak peek inside Blue Origin’s crew capsule design. Image Credit: Blue Origin

Billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos and his Kent, Wash.-based company Blue Origin have been making progress at a steady rate the last few years, developing and testing a fully reusable, suborbital New Shepherd flight system and making plans to resurrect dormant Cape Canaveral Launch Complex-36 (LC-36) to fly it from.

The company has already flown to suborbital space and returned their booster five times over western Texas, and last week they released a “sneak peek” series of images of the crew capsule interior they are developing.

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Buzz Aldrin Flies with the Thunderbirds over Kennedy Space Center

“Good to get back in the cockpit”, said Buzz Aldrin as he strapped into a Thunderbird F-16 for a flight over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center & nearby Cape Canaveral AFS. Photo Credit: Buzz Aldrin via Facebook

Florida’s Space Coast has been roaring to the sound of rockets and jets this past week; SpaceX successfully launched their first reused booster with the SES-10 satellite (and landed it again, successfully), and the USAF Thunderbirds have been shredding the skies nearby at the Melbourne Air & Space Show all weekend, along with many others (including Patrouille de France, the French equivalent of the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds).

But today (Sunday, April 2), unknown to many ahead of time, the Thunderbirds were joined by one of the few humans who have ever stepped foot on another world. The second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, was in town to fly with the team over the place where he left the Earth from nearly 50 years ago.

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'A Mirror-Image Flight': 20 Years Since Columbia's Landing-to-Launch Record (Part 2)

With the reprioritization of mission objectives, the around-the-clock Spacelab operations in the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) changed dramatically. The astronauts even worked by torchlight at times to maintain power levels below critical levels. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, Space Shuttle Columbia rocketed into orbit for what should have been an ambitious mission, devoted to materials processing, combustion science and fluid physics; the last dedicated microgravity research flight before the on-orbit construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was due to commence. An experienced seven-member crew, with five PhDs and seven previous space missions between them, had trained for more than a year to support 25 complex experiments aboard the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1). Little could they have known in the hours after their 4 April 1997 launch that they would be back on Earth before the 16-day flight was 100 hours old.

Continue reading ‘A Mirror-Image Flight’: 20 Years Since Columbia’s Landing-to-Launch Record (Part 2)