Back to Europa! NASA Confirms Next Phase of Mission to Ocean Moon

Artist’s concept of Europa Clipper during a flyby of Europa. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s next mission back to Jupiter’s moon Europa just took another big step towards reality. The next phase of Europa Clipper has been confirmed, giving the go-ahead for the mission to proceed to final design, construction and testing.



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Artemis Updates

Artemis 1 Core Stage. Photo: AmericaSpace.com
MAF Director Robert Campion introduces NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Aug. 15, 2019. Photo: AmericaSpace.com

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine is passionate, very passionate, about getting people exploring space again. That comes through clearly when he speaks, whether about Artemis’ goal of landing on the Moon by 2024 or the Orion and Space Launch System (SLS) programs that will blaze a trail to that goal. He is also honest about the pluses and minuses of the capabilities of those programs that make up Artemis. And Jim Bridenstine is, as a former congressman, open about the politics that have made Artemis possible today.



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Delta IV Medium Launches into Retirement with 'Magellan' GPS III Satellite for USAF

For the 29th and final time, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium booster took flight Thursday, 22 August to deliver the second Block III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite to Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) for the U.S. Air Force. Photo: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

For the 29th and final time, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium booster took flight this morning (Thursday, 22 August) to deliver the second Block III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite to Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) for the U.S. Air Force. The familiar, orange-and-white rocket—flying with a 13-foot-wide (4-meter) payload fairing and two strap-on, solid-fueled boosters—departed Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 9:06 a.m. EDT, a few minutes into today’s 27-minute “window”.

As previously detailed by AmericaSpace, the expensive “single-stick” Delta IV Medium product-line is being retired in favor of the Atlas V, the forthcoming Vulcan-Centaur heavylifter—which won contracts earlier this month to launch six Sierra Nevada Corp. Dream Chaser cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander—and, for the next few years at least, the behemoth Delta IV Heavy.   



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Spacewalkers Install IDA-3 for SpaceX & Boeing; ISS Ready for Commercial Crews

Spacewalkers Nick Hague (top) and Andrew Morgan install the International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) to the Pressurized Mating Adapter on top of the station’s Harmony module. Credits: NASA

Veteran spacewalker Nick Hague and recently-arrived Expedition 60 crewmate Drew Morgan ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS) earlier today (Wednesday) to cap off preparations for the first piloted Commercial Crew missions. The duo spent six hours and 32 minutes outside the orbital outpost, installing the second International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) onto Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-3, which sits atop the space-facing (or “zenith”) interface of the Harmony node.

In doing so, the station now boasts primary and backup docking ports for the Commercial Crew vehicles—SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner—both of which are tentatively slated to undertake their maiden crewed flights before year’s end.



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ULA Set to Launch Last Single-Stick Delta IV Thursday with 'Magellan' GPS III Satellite

For the final time on Thursday, a “single-stick” ULA Delta IV Medium rocket will roar to space, this time with the GPS III ‘Magellan’ satellite for the U.S. Air Force, ending a career which has delivered a smorgasbord of military, civilian & scientific payloads to space over the course of a spectacular 17-year history. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

For the final time on Thursday, a “single-stick” Delta IV Medium booster will roar aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., to transport a critical payload safely into orbit. It will be the 40th flight by a member of this venerable orange-and-white rocket family since November 2002 and the 15th outing in its “Medium+ (4,2)” configuration—characterized by a 13-foot-wide (4-meter) payload fairing and the presence of two solid-fueled Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM)-60—and promises to put on quite a show for the Space Coast.

Launch is scheduled to occur during a 27-minute “window”, which opens at 9 a.m. EDT. Onboard the mighty Delta IV is the second Block III Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite, flying only a matter of months since SpaceX delivered GPS Block III-01 smoothly to orbit in October 2018.



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A Look Back at Delta IV Medium's Spectacular 17 Year Career

The ULA Delta IV Medium is heading into retirement this week, offering an opportune moment to reflect on the career of a vehicle which has delivered a smorgasbord of military, civilian and scientific payloads into Earth orbit and beyond over the course of a spectacular 17-year career. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

As United Launch Alliance (ULA) counts down to the planned 9 a.m. EDT Thursday launch of its final Delta IV Medium booster, this week offers an opportune moment to reflect on the career of a vehicle which has delivered a smorgasbord of military, civilian and scientific payloads into Earth orbit and beyond over the course of a spectacular 17-year career.

And although the Medium’s big brother—the Delta IV Heavy—will remain operational, in the words of ULA, “as long as it is required by our customers”, the swansong of this familiar orange-and-white rocket brings the curtain down on an impressive 100-percent mission success rate. In spite of an upper-stage anomaly experienced back in October 2012, the Delta IV has never failed to deliver its primary payload to the correct orbit.



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First Vulcan to Launch America's Return to the Moon with 'Peregrine' Lander in 2021

Astrobotic has selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket to launch its Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021, on the rocket’s maiden flight. Astrobotic was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the Moon. Images: ULA / Astrobotic

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket is developing full steam ahead, and today, the company announced who their first customer is; Pittsburgh, PA based Astrobotic. And their payload, will kick-off the next decade of America’s return to the surface of the moon.



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Remembering Voyager 2’s Visit With Neptune, 30 Years On (Part 2)

Artist’s concept of Triton and its thin atmosphere, with Neptune and the distant Sun in the background. Image Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Thirty years ago, this month, humans and technology steeled themselves for the last, first-time, close-up glimpse of a new planet in the 20th century. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in August 1977, had already conducted a breathtaking exploration of the giant gaseous worlds Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, but as it headed deeper into the Solar System, bound for Neptune, the potential for failure multiplied. As outlined in yesterday’s AmericaSpace history feature, various techniques were implemented to keep the spacecraft steady whilst taking photographs in the low-light conditions at Neptune and new technologies allowed the worldwide Deep Space Network (DSN) to listen for Voyager 2’s weak signal with greater acuteness than ever before.



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Giant Radio Ear: Remembering Voyager 2's Encounter With Neptune, 30 Years On (Part 1)

Neptune and its large moon, Triton, as seen by Voyager 2 in August 1989, three days after closest approach. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty years ago, this month, all eyes were on the outermost reaches of the Solar System, as humanity braced itself for its last, first-time, close-up glimpse of a new planet in the 20th century. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in August 1977, had already completed a breathtaking exploration of Jupiter and Saturn—together with twin, Voyager 1—and had pushed the boundaries of knowledge further with a whistlestop tour of distant Uranus. Both Uranus and Neptune were poorly understood and in early 1984 scientists gathered in Pasadena, Calif., to develop a comprehensive set of observations for Voyager 2. And for a period of several weeks in the summer of 1989, the small amount of data about Neptune was multiplied many times over as this unknown world suddenly became known.



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Dream Chaser on Track for 2021 Debut atop ULA's Second Vulcan Launch

Today Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) held a press conference announcing their selection of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket to launch their reusable Cargo Dream Chaser ‘spaceplane’ on its upcoming uncrewed resupply missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.

Leadership from both companies also shed some light on where development of the spacecraft and rocket is, and what’s ahead between now and launch.



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