NASA to Begin New RS-25 Engine Test Series for Future Artemis Missions

The world’s most efficient rocket engine unleashing 512,000 pounds of thrust and a thunderous roar across southern Mississippi and NASA’s Stennis Space Center during a 535-second full power test fire in August 2015. The same engine that powered the space shuttle so reliably for years, the RS-25, will again be employed for NASA’s Space Launch System, upgraded to meet the new requirements for what will become the most powerful rocket in history. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

NASA is set to begin a new round of tests for development of RS-25 engines that will help power the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on future missions to the Moon and, eventually, Mars. The first test of the new series is set for Jan. 28 on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.



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'The Slightest Glitch': Remembering The Fire, OTD in 1967

The Apollo 1 crew consisted of (from left) Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White and Pilot Roger Chaffee. Photo Credit: NASA

More than five decades ago, tonight, one of the worst tragedies in the history of U.S. space exploration unfolded with horrifying suddenness on Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy in Florida. “The Fire”—as it infamously became known—tore through the Command Module (CM) of the Apollo 1 spacecraft, during a “plugs-out” ground test on the evening of 27 January 1967, killing astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. It was a disaster that almost halted President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the Moon before the decade’s end and, even today, the loss of Grissom and his men leaves a dark stain on the glory of the Apollo program.



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Veteran ISS Commanders Prepare for First Private AxiomSpace Mission

The crew for AxiomSpace’s Ax-1 mission, targeted to fly no sooner than January 2022, are (from left) Mike Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy, Larry Connor and Eytan Stibbe. Photo Credit: AxiomSpace

Two former International Space Station (ISS) commanders, with a combined 2.5 years’ worth of space-time and 20 sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) between them, have been named to begin dedicated training for the first-ever private crew in history to visit the sprawling orbital outpost.



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Boeing Starliner Set for 25 March Atlas V Launch, STP-3 Mission Delayed

The OFT-2 crew capsule of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is mounted atop the service module in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on 14 January 2021. Photo Credit: NASA

United Launch Alliance (ULA) will not launch its next Atlas V until 25 March, following yesterday’s announcement of a firm date for the second uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS) and a delay to the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program (STP)-3 mission for “launch readiness” evaluations. Both are expected to fly from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. A new launch date for STP-3 has not been revealed.



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Astronauts to Conduct Wednesday Spacewalk to Upgrade Lab on ISS

The installation of the Columbus Ka-Band Antenna (COL-Ka) and activation of the Bartolomeo payloads-anchoring platform has been extensively rehearsed in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), ahead of Wednesday’s planned spacewalk. Photo Credit: ESA

Two NASA astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) early Wednesday to tend to long-awaited upgrades to Europe’s Columbus lab and prepare for the installation of upgraded solar arrays on the sprawling orbital complex. Seasoned spacewalker Mike Hopkins—a veteran of two previous sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA), totaling 12 hours and 58 minutes—and “rookie” Victor Glover will depart the station’s Quest airlock at about 7 a.m. EST for approximately 6.5 hours.



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SpaceX Launches Transporter-1 Rideshare Mission, Logs Third Mission in 3 Weeks

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching the Transporter-1 mission Jan 24, 2021 to deliver 143 commercial and government “rideshare” payloads into orbit. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace.com

Less than eight months after it triumphantly lofted NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard Dragon Endeavour to begin their historic voyage to the International Space Station (ISS), the B1058 Falcon 9 core roared aloft a fifth time early Sunday to deliver a multitude of commercial and government “rideshare” payloads into low-Earth orbit. All told, 143 payloads—the greatest number of satellites ever launched on a single mission—rode uphill at 10 a.m. EST, including the first ten Starlink internet communications satellites bound for polar orbit.



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143-Strong Haul of Satellites Set for Sunday SpaceX Launch

SpaceX’s third launch of 2021 will wait for kinder weather conditions, hopefully at 10 a.m. EST Sunday, 24 January. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

SpaceX will wait until tomorrow morning to launch the greatest number of individual satellites ever flown aboard a U.S. launch vehicle, following Saturday morning’s postponement of the Transporter-1 mission aboard a previously-flown Falcon 9 booster. “Due to unfavorable weather, we are standing down from today’s launch,” SpaceX noted. “The team will continue with the countdown until T-30 seconds for data collection.”



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Fire in the Hole: Remembering Apollo 5, OTD in 1968

An unusual sight greeted Cape Kennedy spectators at sunset on 22 January 1968, as the “stubby” Saturn IB, bearing only Lunar Module (LM)-1, rose to orbit. Photo Credit: NASA

By a strange quirk of fate, NASA’s Apollo 5 mission—which launched more than a half-century ago, this very day—used the same booster as should have been ridden by the ill-fated Apollo 1 crew of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

The three astronauts were intended to fly in early 1967, atop a Saturn IB booster, to put the “Block I” variant of the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) through its paces in low-Earth orbit. However, all three men died when a flash-fire swept through their spacecraft during a ground test. The Saturn IB itself was reassigned to carry Apollo 5, the first flight of the Lunar Module (LM), which would someday transport humans to the surface of the Moon. It was one of many legacies of the bravery of the Apollo 1 crew.



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SpaceX Launches Second Mission of 2021 with More Starlinks on 8x-Flown Rocket

Falcon 9 core B1051 launches its 8th mission on Jan 20, 2021 with SpaceX’s 17th Starlink launch. The rocket has now ferried 297 Starlink satellites into orbit since January 2020. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

After almost two years, SpaceX successfully passed the magical number of 1,000 Starlinks launched to orbit today, when the veteran B1051 core—the first Falcon 9 to record an eighth launch—roared aloft from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, carrying a 60-strong “batch” of these flat-packed internet communications satellites. With today’s launch, 1,013 production-design Starlinks have been put into orbit since May 2019.



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Tight Test Margins Hampered SLS Hot Fire Test, NASA Says

Billowing clouds of steam pour from the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Bay St. Louis, Miss., during Saturday’s Hot Fire Test. Photo Credit: NASA

Last Saturday’s premature shutdown of all four RS-25 engines on the first Space Launch System (SLS) was triggered by intentionally conservative test parameters, according to a NASA update on Tuesday evening. After more than a year in the historic B-2 Test Stand at the Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Bay St. Louis, Miss., the giant rocket’s 212-foot-tall (64.6-meter) Core Stage—which carries more than 733,000 gallons (3.3 million liters) of liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants and provides about 20 percent of the thrust at liftoff—roared to life at 5:27 p.m. EST Saturday, for a hoped-for, eight-minute-long full-flight-duration “burn”.

However, a little over a minute into the Hot Fire Test, one engine exceeded its highly conservative pre-test limits and the Core Stage was commanded to shut down after 67.2 seconds. Teams are working to determine if a second firing may be needed.



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