Question Galore After SpaceX Crew Dragon Explodes in Testing

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo test vehicle, previously flown on the Demo-1 mission, experienced an explosive anomaly during testing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 20, 2019. Photo Credit: @Astronut099 via Twitter

Yesterday, April 20, at 6:02pm local time, Florida Today published a breaking story by Emre Kelly, with photos by one of their photojournalists, Craig Bailey, of dark, acrid, orange smoke rising from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the first indication that there had been an accident there.

Bailey had been coincidentally covering another assignment, and not long after breaking the story with Kelly, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed via Twitter that there had in fact been an anomaly, and it was during a SpaceX static test fire of the Crew Dragon test article’s Super Draco abort engines at their Landing Zone-1.



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First on the Moon: Looking Back on the Apollo 11 Decision, 50 Years On

Five decades ago, in the first half of 1969, the United States space program was consumed by a single, over-arching goal: to plant American boots on the Moon, by year’s end. It was to be the culmination of a national directive from the late President John F. Kennedy, made in May 1961 in response to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the first man into space. In Kennedy’s words, the United States was to achieve a manned landing on the lunar surface, “before this decade is out”, and in spite of a multitude of technical troubles and human tragedies—most notably the loss of the three Apollo 1 astronauts during a “plugs-out” launch pad test—significant strides had occurred to bring the goal closer. In December 1968, Americans had flown around the Moon for the first time and only weeks later the complete Apollo spacecraft had been trialed in Earth orbit.



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Tenth Antares Booster Ferries NG-11 Cygnus on Late-Afternoon Flight to Space Station

Six years to the week since its inaugural launch, the liquid-fueled Antares rocket roared aloft from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., on Wednesday, 17 April to deliver the next Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS). Photo: Cole Ippoliti / AmericaSpace.com

Six years to the week since its inaugural launch, the liquid-fueled Antares rocket roared aloft from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., earlier today (Wednesday, 17 April), to deliver the next Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS). Flying for the tenth time (though only its ninth fully successful launch), Antares rose from the pad on time at 4:46 p.m. EDT, right at the start of a five-minute “window”, and current expectations are that Northrop Grumman’s NG-11 Cygnus spacecraft—named in honor of Apollo 1 hero Roger Chaffee—and its load of 7,600 pounds (3,450 kg) of equipment, experiments and supplies for the Expedition 59 crew will reach and berth at the space station early Friday morning.



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Antares to Launch NG-11 Cygnus from VA April 17, Honors Apollo 1 Hero Roger Chaffee

Roger Chaffee never got to fly in space. Selected by NASA as a member of the space agency’s third group of astronauts—alongside future Moonwalkers Al Bean, Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott and Gene Cernan—he was the youngest of his class and in March 1966 drew his first plum flight assignment as pilot of the first manned Apollo mission. Sadly, ten months later, on the evening of 27 January 1967, he and crewmates Virgil “Gus” Grissom and America’s first spacewalker, Ed White, were killed in a flash fire aboard their Apollo 1 command module. Chaffee was three weeks shy of his 32nd birthday.

More than a half-century later, on Wednesday, 17 April, the Navy lieutenant-commander will fly in name at least to the International Space Station (ISS), when Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems—formerly Orbital ATK and, before that, Orbital Sciences Corp.—launches the NG-11 Cygnus cargo ship atop an Antares 230 booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. Laden with 7,500 pounds (3,400 kg) of experiments, equipment and supplies for the incumbent Expedition 59 crew, the “Spaceship (SS) Roger Chaffee” will approach and berth at the space station early Friday, 19 April, with astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) at the controls of the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2. Monitoring Cygnus’ systems during the approach will be fellow Expedition 59 crewman Nick Hague. According to the schedule, McClain will grapple the cargo ship at 5:30 a.m. EDT, whereupon ground controllers will command Canadarm2 to rotate and install Cygnus onto the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the station’s Unity node.



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Falcon Heavy's Launch with Arabsat 6A in Spectacular Imagery

Falcon Heavy lifting off pad 39A with Arabsat 6A, as seen from the crawlerway formerly used by the Saturn V and space shuttles, just outside the launch pad’s south perimeter. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

SpaceX put on another spectacular show April 11 with the second launch of their triple-barreled Falcon Heavy rocket, delivering the heavy-lift vehicle’s first paying customer to space with the Arabsat-6A satellite.

As always, our imagery team set out with a fleet of cameras to capture as many angles as we could. Featured here is some of our photo & video coverage.



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'A Vision of Pure Beauty': Remembering STS-59, 25 Years On (Part 2)

Twenty-five years ago this week, the crew of Endeavour on STS-59 demonstrated that the shuttle program was imbued with “Radar Love”, as they operated the first Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1) to acquire unprecedented views of the Home Planet from orbit. For 11 days, astronauts Sid Gutierrez, Kevin Chilton, Jay Apt, Rich Clifford, Linda Godwin and Tom Jones worked around the clock to ensure that the radar instruments of the SRL-1 payload gathered an enormous quantity of scientific data. Much of that data is still being analyzed to this day and has helped to shape our understanding of Earth’s past, present, and, potentially, its future.



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Falcon Heavy Goes Operational; Delivers Arabsat 6A, Successfully Lands All Three Boosters

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy on its first commercial mission to deliver Arabsat-6A to orbit on April 11, 2019. Photo: Mike Killian /AmericaSpace.com

Just an hour before Florida sunset, SpaceX’s gigantic Falcon Heavy—lauded by the Hawthorne, Calif.-headquartered launch services provider as the world’s most powerful active rocket, by a factor of two—successfully roared aloft tonight (Thursday, 11 April) from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for its long-awaited first commercial mission. Fourteen months after a triumphant test flight, which boosted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster onto a Mars-crossing heliocentric trajectory, the triple-cored booster got down to business by delivering the 14,320-pound (6,495 kg) Arabsat 6A communications satellite to orbit on behalf of Riyadh-headquartered Arabsat and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

Under the combined thrust of 5.1 million pounds (2.3 million kg), the Falcon Heavy performed with perfection during first-stage flight, before the side boosters plunged back to Earth and alighted smoothly like a pair of synchronized ballet dancers at Landing Zones (LZ)-1 and 2 at the Cape. Meanwhile, despite “challenging” conditions at sea, the core booster successfully touched down on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the Atlantic Ocean, completing an objective left unfulfilled during last year’s Falcon Heavy test flight. All three boosters were previously unflown, although the side rockets are expected to be reused on the Falcon Heavy’s next mission in the summer.



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International Team of Astronomers Unveils Historic First Photo of a Black Hole

This is it! The first-ever image taken of a black hole shows light being around the black hole itself by its intense gravity. Photo Credit: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Today was a historic day in astronomy, as scientists unveiled the first-ever images of a black hole. Such an achievement has been dreamt of for a long time, and now today it is finally reality. The breakthrough was announced this morning by researchers in six different press conferences around the world.



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Where to Watch Wednesday's Falcon Heavy Launch Locally

A year since its spectacular maiden voyage, SpaceX plans as many as two Falcon Heavy launches in 2019. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

Upwards of 100,000+ people are expected to descend upon Florida’s Space Coast on Wednesday, all in anticipation of witnessing the second launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which will fly its first commercial mission for a paying customer from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center.

Liftoff with the Saudi Arabsat-6A satellite is currently scheduled for 6:35pm Eastern U.S. time, but on-site access is extremely restrictive, so where can the public go for good views?



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Sixty Years On, America Remembers the Achievements, Sacrifice of the Mercury Seven

Best known as the residence of the fourth First Lady of the United States, on this day in 1959 the Dolley Madison House, opposite Lafayette Park in downtown Washington, D.C., provided the setting for the introduction of the United States’ first group of astronauts: the long-awaited “Mercury Seven”. Sixty years later, the names of Scott Carpenter, Gordo Cooper, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Wally Schirra, Al Shepard, Deke Slayton and John Glenn have carved their own niche into America’s national psyche. From their ranks came the first U.S. spacefarer, the first American to orbit the Earth, the first human to make two (and three) orbital missions and one of their number even trod the dusty surface of the Moon. But at 2 p.m. EDT on 9 April 1959, the seven men—all clad in civilian suits, and with Glenn and Slayton wearing bow ties—were still virtual unknowns, about to be thrust into a spotlight of international fame.



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