UN Calls for Interest in Payloads for Dream Chaser Mission

Simonetta Di Pippo and Mark Sirangelo after UNOOSA Call For Interest Announcement. Credits: SNC

This week, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced a call for interest from participating UN Member States to fly 20-30 powered experiments on a future low-Earth orbit (LEO) mission on SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft.

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Ten Years of Dawn: A Decade of Operations for Humanity's First Double-Orbiter

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“I’m ecstatic,” said Sarah Gavit of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in December 2001, when the space agency announced that the Dawn mission to orbit and explore the dwarf planets Ceres and Vesta—a pair of worlds deep within the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter—was to go ahead. Earlier that year, Dawn had been selected, alongside a concept to examine Jupiter’s internal structure and the Kepler space telescope as the next members of NASA’s medium-cost Discovery program. “Ceres and Vesta are two of the large unexplored worlds in our Solar System,” Gavit continued. “We’ll learn about early planet formation in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before this mission.”

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'Hopping Around' on Pluto? Exciting Lander Mission Concept Presented at NASA Symposium

Illustration depicting how the Pluto lander would land on the surface and then “hop” to different locations. Image Credit: L. Calçada of European Southern Observatory (ESO)

In 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft provided our first up-close look at Pluto and its moons, helping to transform our knowledge about these small, cold worlds in the outer fringes of the Solar System. The only downside, if there were one even, was that it was a flyby mission, meaning New Horizons would zip past Pluto and then continue on deeper into the Kuiper Belt. Since then, there has been growing advocacy for a return mission such as an orbiter, or perhaps even a lander.

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And Then Silence: 25 Years Since the Rise and Fall of Mars Observer

What might have been? Artist’s concept of Mars Observer in orbit around the Red Planet. Image Credit: NASA

“Range Safety Command Destruct System has been armed…fuel valves are now being opened…”

It was Friday, 25 September 1992—a quarter-century ago—as NASA counted down the final moments on Earth of its first voyage to the Red Planet in almost two decades. Mounted atop the final Commercial Titan III booster on Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the 2,200-pound (1,000 kg) Mars Observer would follow in the footsteps of Mariner 9 and the twin Viking missions to become only the fourth U.S. spacecraft to successfully enter orbit around the Red Planet. It was destined to spend at least one Martian “year”, equivalent to 687 Earth-days, performing a comprehensive survey of the surface, atmosphere, climate and magnetic field. In the words of Project Manager David Evans of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., Mars Observer would reveal far more about the planet than all previous missions combined. “We want to put together a global portrait of Mars as it exists today,” he said before launch, “and, with that information, we can begin to understand the history of Mars.”

Alas, in a sad quirk of fate, Mars Observer never got the chance to complete its ambitious mission of exploration. In circumstances which remain imperfectly understood, it vanished like a blip from a radar screen, only days before it was due to enter Martian orbit.

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Balancing Cost and Science: NASA Examines Less Expensive Mission Design for Europa Lander

Artist’s conception of the Europa lander. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The push for a return mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa has been gaining steam in the last few years, with NASA now planning for Europa Clipper, which would make repeated close flybys to study the moon’s interior ocean and the exciting potential for life. There has also been more talk about a possible lander to examine the moon’s surface up close. Such a mission would be expensive of course, but NASA is now studying possible ways to lessen the costs while maintaining good science return.

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ULA to Launch NROL-42 'Trumpet' Eavesdropping Satellite from Vandenberg Thursday

NROL-42 Mission Patch. Credit: NRO

ULA is all systems GO for a launch attempt tomorrow night, Sep 21, from Vandenberg AFB, CA with a classified surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), after completing a launch readiness review earlier today.

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Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 Billion

Orbital ATK Antares rocket with Cygnus, bound for the International Space Station. The company has been sold to Northrop Grumman for over $9 billion. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

FALLS CHURCH and DULLES, Va. – Sept. 18, 2017 – Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK today announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $1.4 billion in net debt. Orbital ATK shareholders will receive all-cash consideration of $134.50 per share.

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'Sustained Program of Exploration': 20 Years Since the Arrival of the Mars Global Surveyor

Artistic rendering of Mars, made from images taken with NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. Image Credit: Kees Veenenbos/MOLA Science Team/NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor settled into orbit around the Red Planet, to begin what NASA described as “a sustained program of exploration” of our third-closest celestial neighbour after the Moon and Venus. Its arrival came just a few weeks after the arrival of Pathfinder—and the Sojourner rover—and signaled a remarkable shift in U.S. space policy, as an unbroken period of study of Mars study got underway. Two decades later, although Global Surveyor has long since ceased to function, that period of study continued unabated, with missions in orbit and on the ground and many more waiting in the wings for launch in the coming years. Its success today seems all the more remarkable, for the spacecraft suffered a potentially life-limiting series of problems, within hours of launch.

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History’s First Space Ace, Taking Out a Satellite with an F-15

Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson stands with his modified F-15A, prior to shooting down a satellite on Sept. 13, 1985. Photo: USAF

Thirty-two years ago this week, on Sept. 13, 1985, an accomplished F-15 test pilot named Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson (now a retired Maj. Gen.) took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on a mission which would see him do something no astronaut or fighter pilot had done before, and it would make him history’s first space ace.

The mission, called “Celestial Eagle”, was the culmination of a six year anti-satellite (or ASAT) missile development and test program, and Maj. Pearson commanded the USAF F-15 Anti-Satellite Combined Test Force.

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USAF Awards Lockheed GPS M-Code Early Use (MCEU) Ground System Upgrade Contract

The Military Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU) contract will accelerate deployment of command and control of M-Code capability to GPS IIR-M and GPS IIF satellites currently on orbit, as well as future GPS III satellites (like GPS III SV02 above), which the Air Force expects to begin launching in 2018. Credits: Lockheed Martin

MCEU will accelerate deployment of modernized GPS signals to warfighters

DENVER, Sept. 12, 2017 – The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $45.5 million contract to provide Military Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU) capability to the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Part of the Air Force’s overall modernization plan for the GPS, M-Code is an advanced, new signal designed to improve anti-jamming and protection from spoofing, as well as to increase secure access, to military GPS signals for U.S. and allied armed forces.

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