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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On International Women's Day, NASA Looks Forward to First All-Female EVA in Late March; Koch Tapped for Longer ISS Stay

Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques at work with U.S. space suits in the Quest airlock aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

As the world observes International Women’s Day today (Friday, 8 March), we are reminded not only of the past accomplishments of female spacefarers—including Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space; Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to perform a spacewalk; Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space mission; and Peggy Whitson, the first woman to lead a space station expedition—but of the promise of future achievements, as-yet unrealized.

In the coming weeks, NASA plans three periods of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) outside the International Space Station (ISS), involving four first-time spacewalkers from the United States and Canada. On the second of those three EVAs, on 29 March, U.S. astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will make history by performing the first-ever all-female spacewalk. And according to NASA, Koch may remain aboard the station to achieve the second-longest single mission ever performed by a woman.

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Crew Dragon Returns to Earth, Exceeds NASA's Expectations on Demo-1

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down 200 miles off the coast of Florida at 8:45am EST March 8, 2019, closing out a successful uncrewed Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

This morning, SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon closed out an incredibly successful maiden voyage to and from the International Space Station (ISS), splashing down gently 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8:45am EST and wrapping up a week-long uncrewed flight test demonstration mission (Demo-1).



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New Horizons' Data of Pluto/Charon Show Rarity of Small Kuiper Belt Objects

Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, as seen by New Horizons in 2015. The lack of smaller craters -less than expected – suggests that small objects less than a mile in size are rare in the Kuiper Belt. Photo Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

The Kuiper Belt is a vast region of rocky debris in the outer Solar System beyond Neptune, similar to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The objects in this belt – Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) – are ancient, left over from the formation of the Solar System billions of years ago, and range in size from a few hundred feet to a few thousand miles.

Pluto is the largest of these worlds, and while there is a great range in sizes of KBOs, a new study has shown that there is a surprising lack of the smallest objects less than a mile in size.



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Astronauts Welcome Crew Dragon on Maiden Arrival to Space Station

The SpaceX Crew Dragon on ‘Demo-1’ docking to the station’s international docking adapter, which is attached to the forward end of the Harmony module. Credit: NASA TV

Early this morning, after making 18 orbits of the Earth and 27 hours after launch, the first SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule arrived and docked to the International Space Station (ISS).

In doing so it not only marked the first time an American spacecraft has ever autonomously docked to the ISS, but also checked off another huge milestone on the critical ‘Demo-1’ mission towards SpaceX vehicles becoming certified to fly humans.



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