To Live With Russians: Remembering America’s Long Mission to Mir, 25 Years On (Part 2)

U.S. astronaut Norm Thagard sleeps aboard Mir, during his lengthy voyage. Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty-five years ago, this month, the first U.S. astronaut in history was launched aboard a non-U.S. spacecraft, atop a non-U.S. rocket, from a non-U.S. nation, with a crew entirely composed of non-U.S. comrades. Four-time Space Shuttle flyer Dr. Norm Thagard had spent more than a year training for NASA’s first long-duration “increment” to the Russian Mir space station and in doing so would spend nearly four months—a total of 115 days—in orbit, soundly surpassing the previous U.S. endurance record set at the end of the final Skylab mission in early 1974.



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Atlas V Launches AEHF-6 Military SATCOM from Cape Canaveral

The first mission under the newly formed U.S. Space Force took flight today from Cape Canaveral, FL, as a ULA Atlas V rocket launched the AEHF-6 SATCOM. Photo: ULA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully delivered its first major payload on behalf of the newly-formed U.S. Space Force, following Thursday afternoon’s spectacular 4:18 p.m. EDT liftoff of the sixth and final member of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) constellation of military communications satellites. Built by Lockheed Martin and with a “protected communications payload” furnished by Northrop Grumman Corp., AEHF-6 is the capstone of a fleet which will connect civilian leaders with their warfighters all around the world.

Thursday’s launch was the second ULA flight of the year and also marked the 500th use of a production RL-10 engine in the Atlas’ Centaur upper stage to complete three “burns” to deliver the heavyweight satellite precisely into its orbital slot.



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Atlas V Primed for First U.S. Space Force Launch Thursday with AEHF-6

The sixth and final USAF Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite, encapsulated within its Payload Fairing, is transported to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 for stacking atop its Atlas V rocket. Photos: ULA

For only the second time this year, the roar of an Atlas V will break the early afternoon stillness of Cape Canaveral on Thursday, when United Launch Alliance (ULA) aims to deliver its first major payload to orbit on behalf of the newly-inaugurated U.S. Space Force. Liftoff of AEHF-6—the sixth and final member in a fleet of Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites, to afford America’s civilian leaders fast and secure links with worldwide military assets—is scheduled to take place from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at 2:57 p.m. EDT.

Coming a little over six weeks since the successful launch of Solar Orbiter, this mission marks the 11th use of the Atlas V in its most powerful configuration, the 551, as well as the 500th use of an RL-10 upper-stage engine.



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Tool For Collecting Rocks Installed on Perseverance Rover for July Launch to Mars

The Perseverance rover undergoing processing at a payload servicing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 14, 2020. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA’s Perseverance rover just reached big another milestone in its preparations for launch to Mars this summer. Key components of the rover’s sample handling system have now been installed. This system will help acquire and contain rock and soil samples obtained by the rover, which will be stored for eventual return to Earth.



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To Live Like Russians: Remembering America’s Long Mission to Mir, 25 Years On (Part 1)

Norm Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar participate in Soyuz-TM training in October 1994. Photo Credit: NASA

In March 2020, it seems inconceivable to think of U.S. astronauts being totally unaccustomed to long-duration spaceflight. Over the past quarter-century, no fewer than 67 Americans—from civilian medical doctors to biochemists and engineers to physicists, and from Army and Coast Guard officers to Air Force test pilots and Naval aviators—have embarked on flights to Russia’s Mir space station or the International Space Station (ISS), which approached or exceeded the magical 100 days in space.

Six have flown two long-duration flights, whilst a couple have chalked up three marathon missions. Four years ago this very month, Scott Kelly secured a record for the longest singular spaceflight by an American male, at 340 days, whilst only last month Christina Koch logged 328 days to set a similar history-making benchmark for American (and all) females.



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Apollo 15 Veteran Al Worden Dies at 88

Al Worden waves to ground personnel at Patrick Air Force Base prior to taking off on a training flight in a T-38 aircraft in July 1971. Photo Credit: The Project Apollo Archive/NASA

Only four years before the first woman and the next man are due to set foot on the surface of the Moon, AmericaSpace and the world mourn tonight, following the passing of Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot (CMP) Al Worden at the age of 88. Worden’s 12-day voyage with crewmates Dave Scott and Jim Irwin in July and August 1971 saw him perform a comprehensive survey of the Moon with a powerful battery of scientific instrumentation, as well as the first-ever “deep-space” Extravehicular Activity (EVA), more than 180,000 miles (300,000 km) from Earth. Worden’s passing brings to just 11 the number of surviving Apollo astronauts who voyaged to our nearest celestial neighbor, all those years ago.



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SpaceX Launches Fifth Batch of 60 Starlink Satellites

Starlink-5 mission launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from KSC pad 39A. Photo: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace.com

This morning, SpaceX’s rocket ‘B1048’ flew its fifth and final mission, deploying the company’s fifth batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. And while the primary mission went well, the rocket missed its landing and therefore will never be used again.



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Orion Wraps Up Testing in Ohio for First Artemis Mission to the Moon

Some of the NASA Glenn Research Center / Plum Brook Station crew with the Orion spacecraft for Artemis-1, after a successful 4-month test campaign simulating the conditions it will go through in space for the Artemis moon missions. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the first Artemis mission to return Americans to the moon has wrapped up a near 4-month long environmental testing campaign at the agency’s Glenn Research Center / Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, marking a big milestone towards the Artemis-1 mission expected to launch in late 2021.

It’s the final stretch of major testing before integration with the mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for flight, subjecting it to the same temperatures and electromagnetic environment it will experience in the vacuum of space. Meanwhile, the SLS it will launch on is currently at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi preparing for a test fire campaign this summer.



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‘What a Beautiful Universe’: Remembering STS-67’s Record-Setting Voyage, 25 Years On

The ASTRO-2 payload, pictured in Endeavour’s payload bay, during the STS-67 mission. Photo Credit: NASA

A quarter-century ago, this month, STS-67 set a new record for the longest Space Shuttle mission, an accomplishment which would later be eclipsed by only two other flights in the program’s 30-year history. For more than two weeks in March 1995, three military pilots and four professional astronomers worked around-the-clock in two shifts aboard shuttle Endeavour to bring the distant reaches of the Universe alive with the three ultraviolet telescopes of the ASTRO-2 payload. And even today, the records set by STS-67—a mission length of 16 days, 15 hours and 8 minutes, an astonishing 6.9 million miles (11.1 million km) traveled and 262 Earth orbits—make it the third-longest flight in shuttle program history and the third-longest U.S. non-space station voyage of all time.



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Watch SpaceX Launch Starlink-5 from Florida

Sunday’s launch will mark the fifth flight of this particular booster. Photo: SpaceX

UPDATELaunch was aborted just before liftoff. No word yet on a new date for the next launch attempt.

For the first time on Sunday, a five-times-used Falcon 9 booster will spear aloft from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to kick off SpaceX’s sixth overall mission of 2020. Although a handful of boosters have flown four times, none have previously launched a fifth mission.

Laden with another 60 Starlink internet communications satellites—part of CEO Elon Musk’s pledge to emplace thousands of these low-orbiting platforms in space by mid-decade—the mission brings yet another piece of history-making to Pad 39A, which previously supported all but one of the Apollo lunar flights, 82 Space Shuttle launches and which has since 2014 been leased to SpaceX.



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