After Four Month Hiatus, ULA Returns to Flight With Early-Morning TDRS-M Launch

After four months on the ground, United Launch Alliance (ULA) returns to flight on Friday, 18 August, delivering NASA’s latest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) to orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully delivered the latest member of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) earlier today (Friday, 18 August), following a smooth countdown. The workhorse Atlas V booster—flying in its “barebones” 401 configuration, equipped with a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—roared away from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 8:29 a.m. EDT, halfway through today’s 40-minute “window”.

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What Are Those Weird Dark Streaks on Venus? NASA CubeSat Mission Could Find Out

The unusual dark streaks in Venus’ upper atmosphere, seen only in ultraviolet light. Image Credit: NASA

Even though Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, it is still one of the most mysterious. Numerous landers and orbiters have visited this extremely hostile world, but there are still many unanswered questions to be resolved. Now, NASA is proposing a new mission using a small CubeSat, called CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE), to further study Venus’ atmosphere and hopefully solve at least one of the more perplexing mysteries.

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NASA Space Communications Operations to Extend Through 2030, With Friday Launch of TDRS-M

Originally scheduled to launch on 3 August, NASA’s next Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) will now launch on 18 August, atop an Atlas V 401 booster. Photo: AmericaSpace / Jeff Seibert

More than 30 years since its maiden launch—and having enabled near-continuous communications traffic between dozens of Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) crews—NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) will welcome its 12th member into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) on Friday, 18 August. TDRS-M is currently targeted to launch from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during a 40-minute “window”, which opens at 8:03 a.m. EDT. Providing the requisite muscle to get the 7,600-pound (3,450 kg) satellite into orbit will be United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) venerable Atlas V booster.

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Cassini Prepares For One Last Look at Titan Before Spectacular End of Mission

Two views of Titan from Cassini, using the narrow-angle camera on March 21, 2017, revealing bright methane clouds in the thick, opaque nitrogen atmosphere, and dark dunes, lakes and seas on the surface. Natural color on left, false color on right. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

There are now less than five orbits left in the Grand Finale until Cassini’s awe-inspiring mission at Saturn comes to an end. With each remaining orbit, Cassini comes closer to plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, never to be heard from again. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, assists the spacecraft during this phase of the mission, nudging on it with its gravity to keep Cassini in the right orbits for when it dives between the innermost rings and the planet itself. And now those final moments are almost here.

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SpaceX Launches Third Dragon of 2017 to Space Station, Lands 6th Rocket on LZ-1

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Credit: AmericaSpace/Alan Walters

For the ninth time this year, the roar of nine Merlin 1D+ engines pummeled Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida earlier today (Monday, 14 August), as SpaceX successfully delivered its third Dragon cargo mission of 2017 onto a course for the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the Upgraded Falcon 9 booster occurred on-time at 12:31 p.m. EDT Monday and within minutes the Dragon had entered low-Earth orbit and was in the process of deploying its electricity-generating solar arrays and Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) Bay Door. Capture and berthing at the ISS is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, 16 August.

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'Thanks for the Lift': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took Free-Flight

Enterprise’s flights, 40 years ago, laid the groundwork for the Free Flights and eventually the maiden Space Shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA

They gathered in their thousands—65,000, in fact—at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in the cool, pre-dawn hours of Friday, 12 August 1977, to witness America’s first Space Shuttle take flight and perform its first independent landing. Among those thousands were 900 accredited members of the media and 2,000 special guests. By this time, “Enterprise” had already conducted a number of tests, attached to the top of NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), but 40 years ago this week she demonstrated that the Space Shuttle could achieve flight under its own control.

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Storms Threaten Post-Landing Securing of Falcon 9 First Stage on Monday

A successful test fire of the Falcon 9 for next week’s CRS-12 launch, NET Aug 14. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace/Jeff Seibert

Weather conditions are expected to be broadly favorable around midday Monday, as SpaceX prepares to return to flight after an Eastern Range-enforced month-long hiatus in flights from the East Coast. Current plans call for the Hawthorne, Calif.-based organization to launch its 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Upgraded Falcon 9 from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 12:31 p.m. EDT, delivering the CRS-12 Dragon cargo ship on a two-day chasedown of the International Space Station (ISS).

According to the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, there exists a 70-percent likelihood of acceptable weather at T-0, with a similar outlook for the backup opportunity on Tuesday. Moreover, weekend thunderstorms may pose difficulties in securing the Upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage after it makes landfall on Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a few minutes after launch.

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Webb Telescope's Critical Protective Sunshield Now Fully Installed

“Imagine you are the telescope”, note the engineers standing where the telescope will within its protective 5-layer sunshield. Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

A piece of hardware critical to the success of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by preventing background heat from the Sun, Earth and Moon from interfering with the telescope’s sensitive infrared instruments is now fully installed, completed at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California earlier this week.

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Busy Summer of SLS Engine Testing on the Stennis A1 Test Stand

RS-25 SLS test fire Aug 9, 2017. Credit: NASA

Testing of the new brain for the RS-25 engines that will help power the colossal Space Launch System (SLS) rocket uphill from launch pad 39B in the coming years has been on a roll at NASA’s Stennis Space Center all summer, and they just finished up testing of the fourth RS-25 engine controller (the brain) needed for the inaugural flight in 2019 – two weeks after the third test of another RS-25 engine flight controller.

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Only 5 Ring Crossings Left as Cassini Nears End of Historic Mission at Saturn

Saturn’s moon Prometheus lurks near the outer F ring in this new view from Cassini. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft just completed its 17th ring crossing at Saturn, part of the Grand Finale phase of the mission, leaving only 5 more to go before the mission ends on Sept. 15. As before, the ring crossing was a success, with Cassini sending back precious more data about the Saturn system even though time is now running short. The ring crossings, bringing the spacecraft closer to Saturn than ever before, provide a unique way for scientists to learn even more about Saturn and its moons in a manner never before possible.

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