'Full Power for Full Science': Remembering STS-119, Ten Years On

The International Space Station (ISS), as it appeared in March 2009, as shuttle Discovery departed at the end of STS-119. The S-6 truss and its two sets of solar array wings are visible at the far right of frame. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Ten years ago, this month, the crew of shuttle Discovery roared to orbit and achieved—in the words of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) launch commentator Candrea Thomas—“full power for full science” aboard the International Space Station (ISS), by delivering the fourth and final set of U.S.-built solar arrays, batteries and radiators to the sprawling orbital outpost. During their 13 days in space, STS-119 Commander Lee “Bru” Archambault and his crew supported extensive robotics, three sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and rotated long-duration crew members aboard the ISS, bringing NASA veteran Sandy Magnus home after four months and dropping off Koichi Wakata to become the first Japanese astronaut to fly a long-duration space station mission.

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Dream Chaser Clears Another NASA Review for Inaugural 2021 Launch

Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser engineering test vehicle at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. Photo Credit: NASA

America’s next ‘spaceplane’ recently cleared another key NASA review towards flight, checking off the next milestone on Sierra Nevada Corp’s (SNC) journey to launching their first Dream Chaser atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in 2021.



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Engineers Conduct Successful First Tests of Mars 2020 Rover

View of the backshell that will help protect the Mars 2020 rover during its descent into the Martian atmosphere, during the Systems Test 1 (ST1). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The landing of the Mars 2020 rover on Feb. 18, 2021 may still be almost two years away, but NASA’s newest Mars rover has already “touched down” a couple times in successful test simulations. The tests, with many more to come, will prepare engineers for the actual landing day, which like any Mars rover or lander mission, will be brought with anxiety and suspense as the spacecraft begins its descent through the thin atmosphere.



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OSIRIS-REx Finds Plumes and Other Surprises on Asteroid Bennu

View of a particle plume erupting from the surface of Bennu, as seen by OSIRIS-REx on Jan. 19, 2019. This is the first time that such plumes have ever been observed on an asteroid. Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

Close-up observations of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu have revealed many surprises, NASA announced today during the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston. These include particle plumes and a much more rugged surface than had been anticipated.



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Remembering Shuttle Discovery's STS-29 Mission, 30 Years On

Discovery rockets into orbit on STS-29 in March 1989, three decades ago, this month. Photo Credit: NASA

Flying in space, remembered astronaut John Blaha—who made the first of his five missions, 30 years ago, this month—vanished in the flicker of an eye. On 13 March 1989, Blaha and his four crewmates launched aboard shuttle Discovery on the relatively “vanilla” STS-29 flight to deliver a major NASA communications satellite into space. Seated in the pilot’s seat, alongside future Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Mike Coats, Blaha was joined by Mission Specialists Bob Springer, Jim Buchli and Jim Bagian. Most of the crew had been recycled from a pre-Challenger assignment to a flight which might have seen the first citizens of Indonesia and the UK to travel into space.

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ULA's Penultimate Delta IV Lofts WGS-10 to Orbit for USAF

The U.S. Air Force WGS-10 satellite headed to orbit atop the penultimate single-stick United Launch Alliance Delta-IV rocket on March 15, 2019. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Dedicated to the memory of a former electrical installations lead for the Delta IV Program—30-year aerospace industry veteran Kurt Huschle—the second-to-last “single-stick” United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV booster roared smoothly to orbit this evening (Friday, 15 March), laden with a critical military communications asset to support U.S. and allied warfighters across the globe.

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New Crew Launched Aboard Soyuz MS-12, En-Route to Space Station

Soyuz MS-12 roars aloft from Gagarin’s Start, into post-midnight skies at Baikonur. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

Two U.S. astronauts rode into orbit, shoulder-to-shoulder with a Russian commander earlier today, when Soyuz MS-12 speared smoothly aloft from Site 1/5—the historic “Gagarin’s Start”—at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. NASA flyers Nick Hague and Christina Koch were joined by seasoned cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin for the on-time liftoff and are now embarking on a six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous” to reach the International Space Station (ISS).

By a strange quirk of coincidence, today (3/14) happens to be “Pi Day”, and the mission of Ovchinin, Hague and Koch set off at 3:14 p.m. EDT Thursday (12:14 a.m. local time Friday). “Liftoff on #PiDay,” tweeted Hague in the hours before launch. “An engineer’s dream come true. Next stop, @Space_Station.” The trio are targeted to dock at the station’s Earth-facing (or “nadir”) Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. EDT.

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Penultimate Single-Stick Delta IV to Launch USAF WGS-10 on Friday

Friday’s mission will be the first flight of the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) since March 2017, which delivered the most recent Wideband Global Satcom to orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

The Space Coast will be greeted by a rare spectacle on Friday evening (15 March), when United Launch Alliance (ULA) lofts the second-to-last member of its “single-stick” Delta IV fleet of boosters from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The almost-six-decade-old pad—which last saw service to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe in August 2018—will reverberate to more than 1.8 million pounds (810,000 kg) of thrust from the Common Booster Core (CBC) and four strap-on solid-fueled rockets of the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4). Liftoff of ULA’s second mission of 2019 is scheduled for 6:56 p.m. EDT, at the opening of a 129-minute “window”, which closes at 9:05 p.m. Assuming a successful launch, the tenth Wideband Global Satcom (WGS-10) satellite will be released into supersynchronous orbit about 42 minutes into the flight, setting it up for a minimum 14 years supporting U.S. and allied warfighters.

In keeping with tradition, this particular Delta IV vehicle is dedicated to a late ULA employee; in this case, Kurt Huschle, who held critical roles during a 30-year aerospace career and was the electrical installations lead for the Delta IV.

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Soyuz MS-12 Crew Primed for Thursday Launch to Space Station

The Soyuz MS-12 crew of (from left) Alexei Ovchinin, Nick Hague and Christina Koch during their flight to Baikonur last month. Photo Credit: NASA

Five months after an abortive attempt to reach the International Space Station (ISS), Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA’s Nick Hague will have a second chance to get to the sprawling orbital outpost on Thursday, 14 March, when they again launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The pair originally flew aboard Soyuz MS-10 last October, but their mission was aborted during ascent and—thanks to the superb functionality of the launch escape system—the two men were plucked away from their failing Soyuz-FG booster and achieved a safe landing on the Kazakh steppe.

With just 154 days having passed between their two flights, Thursday’s mission will mark the shortest interval in Russian spaceflight history between two launches by the same crew, pipping the harrowing 1983 experience of Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennadi Strekalov by just a few days.

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'Cutting Edge': Remembering STS-62, 25 Years On

Tropical Storm Owen vividly backdrops Columbia’s silhouetted payload bay, aft bulkhead and vertical stabilizer during STS-62. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

A quarter-century ago, this week, five astronauts aboard shuttle Columbia sailed through a mission which their launch announcer had earlier described as “the cutting edge of microgravity research”. STS-62 Commander John Casper, Pilot Andy Allen and Mission Specialists Pierre Thuot, Sam Gemar and Marsha Ivins spent 14 days in March 1994 overseeing a virtual miniature space station—with materials and space technology research, medical and biological experiments, solar physics instrumentation and robotics—in the shuttle’s cavernous payload bay and middeck. And for Ivins in particular, it would offer an early glimpse of the technology that she would one day use to install the U.S. Destiny lab onto the International Space Station (ISS).

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