Antares Launches NG-12 ISS Resupply Mission, Honors Moonwalker Alan Bean

Liftoff of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 9:59am ET Nov 2, 2019, sending their Cygnus cargo vehicle to deliver about 8,200 pounds of cargo and supplies to the ISS for NASA. Photo: Oliver Pelham Burn / AmericaSpace.com

Five years to the week since the most dismal moment of its career, an Antares booster sprang perfectly from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., earlier today (Saturday, 2 November), bound for a two-day orbital trek to the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the first member of the upgraded Antares 230+ fleet, a vehicle specially enhanced to crank up its ability to deliver more payload to orbit with greater efficiency, took place on time at 9:59 a.m. EDT.

Laden with the NG-12 Cygnus cargo ship—named in honor of Apollo 12 Moonwalker Alan Bean, who died last year—the mission will deliver 8,200 pounds (3,720 kg) of payloads, equipment and supplies to the station’s incumbent Expedition 61 crew. It will be grappled early Monday by the Canadarm2 robotic arm, under the watchful eyes of NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch.



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Antares Ready for Saturday Launch from Virginia to Resupply ISS (NG-12)

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket is seen in the early morning on launch Pad-0A, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman’s 12th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 8,200 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Launch is scheduled for 9:59 a.m. EDT Saturday, Nov. 2. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Even as its NG-11 spacecraft continues to circle the Earth, Northrop Grumman Corp. stands primed to launch a second Cygnus cargo mission of 2019 to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, 2 November. Liftoff of the first Antares 230+ booster—a never-before-used variant of the rocket, which boasts structural improvements and better payload-to-orbit capability—is due to occur at 9:59 a.m. EDT from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va.



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Insight's 'Mole' Drill Faces New Issue, While Curiosity Explores "Ancient Oasis"

Image from InSight showing the “mole” heat probe (the tube on the left) after it jumped about halfway back out of the hole it made while digging. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Update – Nov. 1, 2019: NASA InSight just tweeted that the mole appears to be stable and more images are being taken to try to solve the problem:



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NASA Green Lights Study for Orbital Mission to Pluto

Pluto and its largest moon Charon (upper left), as seen by New Horizons on July 14, 2015. Photo Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

When the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto after a decade-long flight in 2015, the data it returned to Earth revealed more questions than answers about the tiny mysterious world and its five moons three billion miles away. The only downside, if there was one, was that it was a flyby mission.



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Secretive X-37B Returns in Darkness After 780 Day Space Mission

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019. The X-37B OTV is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. Credit: USAF

Residents of Florida’s ‘Space Coast’ in northern Brevard County were awakened with sonic booms before the crack of dawn this morning, thanks to the unannounced arrival of the secretive U.S. Air Force X-37B spaceplane, which landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 3:51 a.m. local after spending 780 days in space.

Doing what? Who knows, but today’s landing closes out the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) program’s 5th flight, breaking its previous record for time in space on a mission and accumulating a grand total of 2,865 days on-orbit through the program, which “performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies,” according to the USAF.



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'You Didn't Prepare Me': Remembering America’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter, 30 Years On (Part 2)

Aerial view of Atlantis’ rise to orbit on 18 October 1989, 30 years ago this week. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty years ago, this week, shuttle mission STS-34 and the crew of Atlantis roared aloft from Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to deliver NASA’s Galileo spacecraft onto the first leg of its long odyssey to Jupiter. As outlined in last weekend’s AmericaSpace history feature, the mission had been subject to lengthy delays, caused by political and technical issues—including the January 1986 Challenger tragedy—and was also adversely affected by anti-nuclear protesters campaigning against Galileo’s plutonium power unit.

Finally, after two false starts, Commander Don Williams, Pilot Mike McCulley and Mission Specialists Franklin Chang-Diaz, Ellen Baker and Shannon Lucid strode out from their crew quarters on the morning of 18 October 1989 to begin a mission which would revolutionize our understanding of the Solar System’s largest planet.



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First Engine Installed on SLS as NASA Orders More Rockets, Conducts Pathfinder Ops at KSC

Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have structurally mated the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon. Photo Credit: NASA/Jude Guidry

NASA is full steam ahead with the Space Launch System, as years of development and manufacturing continue transitioning into flight hardware final assembly and integration for the upcoming Artemis moon missions after the turn of the decade.

The agency just ordered a third rocket core and is finalizing details with Boeing for a contract of up to 10, while workers at the launch site in Florida practice processing ops with a recently arrived pathfinder, and technicians at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans install the four flight engines on the bottom of the enormous 212-foot tall core stage for the first SLS flight – Artemis 1.



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'Nothing Absurd': Remembering America's Galileo Mission to Jupiter, 30 Years On (Part 1)

Mounted atop its Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), Galileo parts company from Space Shuttle Atlantis on the evening of 18 October 1989. Photo Credit: NASA

When the Galileo spacecraft drifted out of Space Shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay on the evening of 18 October 1989—30 years ago this week—to begin the first leg of its long voyage to Jupiter, the sight was a moving one for astronaut Shannon Lucid. As a Mission Specialist on STS-34, she was principally responsible for deploying one of the most important scientific payloads ever flown by the shuttle. Yet as Galileo and its attached Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster floated silently into the void, Lucid clearly saw the romance of adventure, manifested in the name Galileo in script letters and the initials of the space agency NASA in its now-defunct worm logo. In her mind, the two font types underscored the romance of adventure and exploration, juxtaposed against the engineering and scientific talent which brought Galileo from the drawing board to reality. Its journey to the launch pad had been a long and tortuous and its voyage to Jupiter would be longer and harder still.



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For All Womankind: Koch and Meir Complete Historic All-Female Spacewalk

Christina Koch (with red stripes) was making her fourth career Extravehicular Activity (EVA), whilst Jessica Meir became the 14th U.S. woman and the 15th woman in history—when one also counts Russia’s Svetlana Savitskaya—to perform a spacewalk. Photo Credit: NASA

Thirty-five years to the month since Kathy Sullivan carved her name in the annals of history by becoming America’s first female spacewalker, another record was set for the United States and the world earlier today (Friday, 18 October) when Expedition 61 astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir embarked on the world’s first all-woman Extravehicular Activity (EVA). The duo—with Koch making her fourth career EVA, serving as “EV1”, with red stripes on her space suit for identification, and first-timer spacewalker Meir as “EV2”, in a pure white suit—spent seven hours and 17 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) replacing a failed Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) and tending to a number of get-ahead tasks. In addition to its obvious significance as the first-ever all-female EVA, today’s U.S. EVA-58 saw Koch jump in the rankings to become the world’s fourth most experienced woman spacewalker.



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NASA Makes Progress in Restoring InSight’s Malfunctioning Heat Probe

NASA’s InSight lander set its heat probe, called the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) or “the mole,” on the Martian surface on Feb. 12, 2019. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR

NASA’s InSight mission on Mars has been incredibly successful so far, with new findings about magnetism in the crust, marsquakes and even possible evidence for a vast amount of subsurface water.



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