SpaceX Test Fires Crew Dragon's Abort Engines, Paves Way to In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX conducted a successful full-duration static fire test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system again on Nov 13, 2019, and will now work with NASA to review the data & proceed towards their next major flight test milestone before putting astronauts onboard; an in-flight abort during a rocket launch itself, to validate Dragon’s launch escape capabilities. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX just hit another big milestone today on the road to launching astronauts for NASA starting next year, with a successful test fire campaign of their Crew Dragon’s maneuvering thrusters and abort engines at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The test comes nearly 7 months after an anomaly blew up a Crew Dragon during the original test firing of its abort engines back on April 20, which was traced to a leaky valve which allowed liquid oxidizer – nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) – to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing.



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NASA Joins ESA's 'ARIEL' Mission to Study Atmospheres of Hot Exoplanets

Artist’s concept of the ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2). Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office

Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered so far – just over 4,000 now actually – with thousands more expected to be found in the near future. But these worlds are very far away, so it is a difficult task to determine just what they are actually like. But now, NASA is contributing an instrument to a new European space mission that will be able to study the atmospheres of hundreds of these worlds.



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SpaceX Launches 60 More Starlinks to Orbit

After three launchless months, a Falcon 9 sprang for the skies on the morning of Veterans Day 2019, bearing 60 SpaceX Starlink internet communications satellites. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX has successfully launched one of its largest payloads to date, following a spectacular Veterans Day liftoff of the first, four-times-used Falcon 9 core from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The 230-foot-tall (70-meter) booster—its blackened and scorched lowermost section presenting visible testament to three previous ascents and high-speed re-entries over the past 16 months—roared away from the Cape at 9:56 a.m. EST Monday, 11 November. It then returned to a smooth touchdown on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “Of Course I Still Love You”, offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

And a little more than an hour into the mission, the process of deploying 60 flat-packed Starlink internet communications satellites got underway. Further Starlink missions will follow, as SpaceX seeks to emplace several thousand of these satellites into low-Earth orbit by 2024. Prior to launch, an issue was noted with one of the satellites. “Watching 1 sat that may not orbit-raise,” SpaceX tweeted. “If not, 100% of its components will quickly burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.”



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More Capable Machine: Remembering Atlantis' STS-66 Mission, 25 Years On (Part 2)

Boasting the first reusable drag chute, Atlantis concluded STS-66 with a touchdown at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on 14 November 1994. The 11-day mission was her longest flight to date. Photo Credit: NASA

A quarter-century ago, this month, STS-66 Commander Don McMonagle received light-hearted authorization to “take Atlantis back to the skies”, after two years of maintenance, refurbishment and extensive modification. With a dozen previous flights under her belt, Atlantis had (almost) done it all: deployed two planetary probes, launched five Department of Defense missions—more than any of her sister shuttles—and taken citizens from the United States to Mexico and from Belgium to Italy into space.

But following the last of those missions, she was detailed to undertake the first docking with Russia’s Mir space station and later begin building the International Space Station (ISS). It was therefore a much more capable shuttle that veteran astronaut McMonagle found himself commanding on the morning of 3 November 1994 as he and his five crewmates steeled themselves for an 11-day flight, the longest of Atlantis’ career to date.



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SpaceX Ready to Launch 60 More Starlink Satellites Monday Morning

Falcon 9 at Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this evening, counting down to its fourth launch scheduled for Monday morning Nov. 11 with the next batch of 60 Starlink satellites for SpaceX. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Three months since the roar of a Falcon 9 booster last shook Cape Canaveral Air Force Station—and almost twelve weeks since Florida’s last rocket launch—SpaceX stands primed to soar again on Monday, 11 November, to deliver 60 of its home-grown Starlink internet communications satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Liftoff of the organization’s 11th mission of 2019 is targeting 9:56 a.m. EST, and will mark a new personal best for SpaceX, as rocket ‘B1048’ becomes the first Falcon 9 first-stage core to make a fourth launch, as well as reusing the payload fairing from last April’s Falcon Heavy mission.



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Boeing Discloses Cause Of Starliner Parachute Anomaly

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters ignite in the company’s Pad Abort Test, Nov. 4, 2019. Photo: NASA

NASA’s head of Commercial Crew Kathy Lueders and Boeing’s John Mulholland, V.P. and Program Manager, Commercial Crew Programs, Space Exploration, held a press conference on Nov. 7 to discuss the results of last Monday’s pad abort test of Boeing’s Starliner commercial spacecraft. While the test is nearly every respect was exactly as desired, or what is called “nominal” in aerospace circles, there was one anomaly–only two of Starliner’s three main parachutes deployed.

Deployment of drogue chutes during Boeing Starliner’s pad abort test. Image: NASA


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Starliner Clears Pad Abort Test as ULA Rolls Out Rocket for Dec 17 Orbital Flight Test

This morning, Boeing conducted the first major flight test of their new CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, flying off a launch stand at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for a pad abort test to demonstrate and prove it can safely escape an exploding rocket to save its crew.

It was their first flight test under a $4.2 billion contract for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and will provide Boeing and NASA with loads of data to help evaluate and verify the performance of Starliner’s abort system, before NASA will certify it and board astronauts for missions to and from the International Space Station beginning next year.



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Artemis Updates

Orion Update & Overview

Orion in lunar orbit. Image: NASA.

Orion will be the first crewed spacecraft designed to fly astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit in five decades. The demands of designing a deep space crewed spacecraft meant that Orion faced a great many challenges during its development that nobody had faced since Apollo. While the experience of those who designed and built Apollo remains in the form of flight articles at various NASA facilities, sadly many of those who created the Apollo spacecraft are gone, and with them their lessons learned. Persisting experience between generations has since the dawn of time been a perennial problem for civilizations.



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Boeing Ready for Critical Starliner Crew Capsule Pad Abort Test Monday

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and its service module sit atop the test stand at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico ahead of the company’s Pad Abort Test. The test is scheduled for Nov. 4, 2019, and will demonstrate the spacecraft’s ability to quickly escape the launch pad in the event of an emergency on launch day.
Credits: Boeing

After years of anticipation, Boeing is on the verge of several major milestone flight tests for their new CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, starting tomorrow morning at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico with a critical pad abort test to prove it can safely escape an exploding rocket to save the crew.

It’s their first flight test under a $4.2 billion contract for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and will provide Boeing and NASA with loads of data to help evaluate and verify the performance of Starliner’s abort system, before NASA will certify it and board astronauts for missions to and from the International Space Station.



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Gentlemen's Hours: Remembering Atlantis' STS-66 Mission, 25 Years On (Part 1)

Twenty-five years ago, Atlantis returned to flight with the ATLAS-3 mission. It was her final “standalone” mission before the shuttle-Mir and International Space Station (ISS) eras. Photo Credit: NASA

A quarter-century ago, today, the International Space Station (ISS) era began in earnest with the return-to-flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, following a lengthy period of refurbishment. Since her STS-46 mission in July 1992, she had undergone many improvements to prepare her for voyages to Russia’s Mir space station and eventually to participate in building the ISS. Her return to operations on STS-66 in November 1994 marked the culmination of a remarkable few months, in which all four shuttles—Columbia, Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis herself—spread their spacefaring wings. And when STS-66 launched on 3 November 1994, NASA accomplished its best-yet record in the post-Challenger era for launching three back-to-back shuttle missions in only 55 days.



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