Some Late Changes: Remembering Discovery's Space Station Mission, 20 Years On

On this day in 2001, STS-105 and her crew—which included spacewalker Dan Barry, seen here—began an ambitious mission of science, spacewalking and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Photo Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, astronauts and cosmonauts from the United States and Russia celebrated 1,000 days of orbital operations for the International Space Station (ISS). On 10 August 2001, shuttle Discovery’s STS-105 astronauts—Commander Scott “Doc” Horowitz, Pilot Rick “C.J.” Sturckow and Mission Specialists Pat Forrester and Dan Barry—delivered the third resident crew to the fledgling outpost, supported a pair of critical sessions of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and returned to Earth with its outgoing second crew. Additionally, STS-105 transported 7,000 pounds (4,000 kg) of equipment and supplies to the space station aboard the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM)



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NG-16 Cygnus Prepares for Tuesday Launch, as OFT-2 Starliner Delay Lengthens

Over the past several days, cargo has been loaded aboard the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) of the NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft by Northrop Grumman Corp. and NASA teams.

As Boeing and NASA continue to investigate a propulsion system valve issue aboard the OFT-2 Starliner vehicle at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., Northrop Grumman Corp. stands primed to launch its next cargo-laden Cygnus mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The NG-16 flight—named in honor of Challenger hero Ellison Onizuka—will lift off atop Northrop Grumman’s Antares 230+ booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 5:56 p.m. EDT Tuesday.



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NASA's Lucy Spacecraft Prepares for First-Ever Four-Billion Mile Journey to Trojan Asteroids

Lucy, in its modified shipping container, lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 30. It was later transported by truck to its final destination, Astrotech Space Operations, in nearby Titusville. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

There have been many missions to various asteroids and comets, by NASA and other space agencies. But one group of asteroids that still hasn’t been visited is the Trojans – until now. NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will be the first to travel to these asteroids, which share an orbit with Jupiter. And now, Lucy has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to begin preparations for its launch this fall, NASA announced earlier this week.



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A Very Unique Place: Remembering the First Deep-Space EVA, Five Decades On

Al Worden clambers over the exterior of the Service Module (SM) on 5 August 1971 in humanity’s first trans-Earth EVA. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago today, a fully suited astronaut poked his helmeted head out the side hatch of the Command Module “Endeavour”, into an environment like no other. Al Worden, one of three crew members on Apollo 15—our first foray to the mountains of the Moon—was tasked with retrieving film and cameras from the Scientific Instrument Module Bay (SIMBay) of the Service Module (SM).

To do that, he was required to clamber, hand over hand, across a gulf of 30 feet (9 meters) and back again. Extravehicular Activity (EVA) had been performed several times by U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts by 5 August 1971, but with the exception of the Apollo Moonwalkers all had been done in low-Earth orbit. Worden remains one of only three men to have performed a “Deep Space EVA”, in the cislunar void between Earth and our closest celestial neighbor.



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Starliner Valve Issue Delays OFT-2, Next Launch Attempt TBD

For the second time in less than a week, the Orbital Flight Test (OFT)-2 mission has been stood down. Last Friday, its launch was postponed following issues after Nauka’s arrival at the International Space Station (ISS), and on Tuesday due to unexpected valve-position indications aboard the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Photo Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

The second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft must wait a little longer, following a scrubbed launch attempt on Tuesday. According to Boeing, “unexpected valve position indications” in the spacecraft’s propulsion system were observed during checkouts after electrical storms passed over the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), earlier this week, and that the team would stand down to achieve a better understanding of the anomaly. Perched atop its 172-foot-tall (52.4-meter) Atlas V booster, the Starliner will be returned to the protective cover of the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., where the spacecraft is more readily accessible for analysis.



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What a Lucky Person: Remembering STS-43, Thirty Years On

Spectacular view of the Home Planet, as seen from STS-43. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty years ago today, Space Shuttle Atlantis flew a mission which harked back to the past and set in place a cornerstone to enable the exploration of the future. On the morning of 2 August 1991, the crew of STS-43—Commander John Blaha, Pilot Mike Baker and Mission Specialists Shannon Lucid, Jim Adamson, and David Low—rocketed into space to launch NASA’s fourth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). Part of a network of geostationary-orbiting communications and relay platforms for the shuttle and the space agency’s major scientific assets, TDRS was joined aboard Atlantis by a menagerie of research and technology investigations, many of which would evolve into systems for today’s International Space Station (ISS).



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Weather 60-Percent Favorable for NET Tuesday Launch of OFT-2

The Atlas V and CST-100 Starliner has been returned to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) for protection against anticipated inclement weather. Photo Credit: ULA

Mother Nature is pledging above-average odds that she may play ball for the next scheduled attempt to send a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster airborne from storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., no earlier than 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 3 August. According to the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Space Force Base, there exists a 60-percent probability of acceptable conditions for the launch of the long-awaited second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff was originally targeted for Friday, 30 July, but was called off in response to difficulties experienced during the arrival and docking of the Russia’s Nauka (“Science”) lab at the station yesterday.



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Rocket Lab's Electron Booster Returns to Flight, Delivers Monolith Payload to Orbit

After a two-month hiatus, Rocket Lab’s Electron booster took flight early Thursday, laden with the Monolith payload. Photo Credit: Joseph Baxter, via Rocket Lab/Twitter

With a powerful crackle from its nine Rutherford liquid-fueled engines, Rocket Lab’s Electron booster returned smoothly to flight early Thursday, following a ten-week hiatus in operations. Liftoff of the 56-foot-tall (17-meter), two-stage vehicle took place at 6 p.m. New Zealand Time (2 a.m. EDT) out of Launch Complex (LC)-1 at the southernmost tip of the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island.

In keeping with Rocket Lab tradition, today’s mission bore its own uniquely comical nomenclature—“It’s Chile Up Here”—as it delivered a U.S. Space Force demonstration payload called “Monolith” to low-Earth orbit on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Space Test Program (STP). It was Rocket Lab’s second flight in support of Department of Defense objectives, following a previous mission in May 2019.



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Atlas V, Starliner Set for Historic Space Station Launch on Friday

The OFT-2 Starliner is lowered into place atop the Atlas V earlier this month. Photo Credit: ULA

After 19 months of mixed fortunes, the second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner—the second of two Commercial Crew vehicles, alongside the in-service SpaceX Crew Dragon—is set to launch from historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla., during an “instantaneous” window at 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, 31 July. Assuming a scrub on Friday, the next opportunity for the Eastern Range to launch this mission is at 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 3 August.

The uncrewed mission will be delivered to low-Earth orbit atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster, with an autonomous docking at the International Space Station (ISS) anticipated early Saturday and a parachute-assisted return to Earth five to ten days thereafter. Successful completion of OFT-2 will clear a major hurdle as Boeing readies for its Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the station, which may take place before year’s end.



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Man Must Explore: Remembering Apollo 15, Five Decades On

Commander Dave Scott, here pictured at work on the slopes of Mount Hadley Delta, is the only remaining member of the Apollo 15 crew still with us. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty summers ago, astronauts Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden flew Apollo 15, the fourth manned landing mission to the Moon. Launched on 26 July 1971 atop a Saturn V rocket, they were the first humans to visit the rugged lunar mountains, which were thought to be home to some of the oldest rocks and soils, dating back to shortly after the Moon’s formation. Apollo 15 was a spectacular 12-day mission, involving three Moonwalks, a comprehensive survey from lunar orbit, the first “deep-space” Extravehicular Activity (EVA) and the first use of the battery-powered Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). But it took its toll on the men. One lost his marriage, another ultimately lost his life and the reputations of all three were left severely tarnished.



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