75th Atlas V Successfully Lofts SBIRS GEO-4 Infrared Warning Sentinel to High Orbit

A long exposure view tonight as ULA’s Atlas-V successfully launched America’s fourth critical Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Orbit (#SBIRS) spacecraft. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

After wrapping up one of its quietest years on record in 2017, with only eight launches across its Delta IV, Atlas V and Delta II fleet, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has begun 2018 with a bang, by flying two missions from the West and East Coasts, just one week apart. The company launched its final Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) from Vandenberg, last Friday, 12 January, and at 7:48 p.m. EST Friday, 19 January sent the fourth member of the geosynchronous-orbiting Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS GEO-4) aloft from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Launch was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but was scrubbed, due to a ground-based issue associated with the liquid oxygen system. It marks an impressive start to 2018, in which ULA plans to fly out the last of its “single-stick” Delta boosters, including the final Medium and the swansong of the Delta II.

Continue reading 75th Atlas V Successfully Lofts SBIRS GEO-4 Infrared Warning Sentinel to High Orbit

ULA to Try Launching Billion Dollar SBIRS Missile Defense Satellite Again Tonight

Sunset at Launch Complex 41, where a ULA Atlas-V rocket stands ready to launch to the fourth U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Orbit (SBIRS GEO-4) spacecraft Thursday evening. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

UPDATE:

The first launch attempt on Jan 18 was scrubbed, below is ULA’s statement:

“Launch of Atlas V carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 4 mission was scrubbed due to a ground issue associated with the booster liquid oxygen system. Launch is planned for Friday, Jan. 19. The forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 7:48 p.m. ET.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is all systems GO for a launch attempt tonight to deliver one of the Pentagon’s highest priorities to space, the fourth U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Orbit (SBIRS GEO-4) spacecraft, atop an Atlas-V rocket.

Continue reading ULA to Try Launching Billion Dollar SBIRS Missile Defense Satellite Again Tonight

'Quite a Feeling of Being Alone': 25 Years Since Endeavour's Vanilla-to-Chocolate STS-54 Mission

The base of the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), carrying the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, departs Endeavour on 13 January 1993. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Twenty-five years ago, this week, the crew of STS-54 settled into orbit for one of the shortest shuttle missions of the decade, tasked with deploying the fifth member of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). Attached to a Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster, TDRS-F was released from Endeavour’s payload bay a few hours into the six-day flight, to provide critical voice and data communications from geostationary orbit. When the five-member crew released their official patch in the summer of 1992, they paid tribute not only to their TDRS primary payload, but also to the Diffuse X-ray Spectrometer (DXS), which would observe invisible X-ray sources within the Milky Way Galaxy.

Continue reading ‘Tumbling Off Into Space’: 25 Years Since Endeavour’s Vanilla-to-Chocolate STS-54 Mission

The Astronaut's Astronaut: Remembering John Young

Apollo 16 Commander John Young gazes across the rugged terrain during humanity’s fifth piloted lunar landing. Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut John Young, who died recently at age 87, reduces yet further the number of veteran Moonwalkers who are still with us. Only five men—all in their 80s—can now claim to have experienced the one-sixth gravity of the lunar surface and to have glimpsed its desolate landscape through their space suit visors. For more than four decades, from his selection as a NASA astronaut in September 1962 to his retirement in December 2004, Young was a titanic figure in the halls of the space agency, launching seven times, flying six discrete space missions, performing three lengthy Moonwalks, voyaging twice to lunar distance and becoming the longest-serving chief of the Astronaut Office. Young’s legacy extended far beyond his missions. His leadership, his humor, his focus and tenacity, his unflappability under duress and an unwavering devotion to flight safety turned him into what veteran shuttle flier Tom Jones once described as “the conscience of the astronaut corps”.

Continue reading The Astronaut’s Astronaut: Remembering John Young

Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) Launches Final Mission, Delivers Secretive NROL-47 Payload to Orbit

The final Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) takes flight at 2:11 p.m. PST Friday, 12 January. Photo Credit: ULA/Twitter

One of the least-used variants of the mighty Delta IV booster flew its final manifested mission today (Friday, 12 January), delivering the classified NROL-47 payload into orbit on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Originally targeted to fly on Wednesday, the mission was postponed by 24 hours, due to unacceptably high ground winds. A second attempt yesterday was also scrubbed, due to technical issues pertaining to the launch pad swing-arm system and a ground system valve. Launch finally occurred at 2:11 p.m. PST on Friday, 12 January, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

“This was an incredibly important launch for the 30th Space Wing and our mission partners,” said Col. Greg Wood, vice commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg. “The entire team—the 30th Space Wing, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance and others—worked hand-in-hand to ensure this launch was safe and successful. This was an outstanding effort by everyone.”

Continue reading Delta IV Medium+ (5,2) Launches Final Mission, Delivers Secretive NROL-47 Payload to Orbit

ZUMA Presumed a 'Total Loss' After Falling Into Ocean, Say Officials

ZUMA launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL Jan 7, 2018. The secretive government payload reportedly failed to reach orbit and fell into the ocean, say officials familiar with the mission in comments to the Wall Street Journal. Photo: Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two anonymous government officials familiar with the classified ZUMA mission, launched by SpaceX on Jan 7, declare the payload a “total loss” after falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

The satellite, which reportedly cost upwards of $1 billion or more, is believed to have failed to reach orbit after not separating from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage.

Continue reading ZUMA Presumed a ‘Total Loss’ After Falling Into Ocean, Say Officials

SpaceX Delivers Secretive Zuma Payload to Orbit, Returns Upgraded Falcon 9 First Stage to LZ-1

The Upgraded Falcon 9 launches, performs its three-part Boostback, Entry and Landing Burn and returns to an LZ-1 touchdown in the first SpaceX mission of 2018. Photo Credit: John Kraus/AmericaSpace

Only days after SpaceX elevated its long-awaited Falcon Heavy booster for pre-Static Fire fit-checks on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the organization has kicked off its 2018 manifest by delivering a long-delayed payload into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) from neighboring Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Although tonight’s launch represents SpaceX’s third classified national security payload—known only by the code name “Zuma”—it was accompanied by a veil of unusual secrecy, for not even the sponsoring U.S. Government Agency responsible for the mission is known with certainty. The Upgraded Falcon 9 booster roared aloft at precisely 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, 7 January, and, a few minutes thereafter, its Block 4 first stage returned to Earth and alighted smoothly on Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at the Cape, for potential refurbishment and re-use.

Continue reading SpaceX Launches Secretive Zuma Payload, Lands Falcon 9 on LZ-1

Rediscovering the Moon: 20 Years Since Lunar Prospector

Launched 20 years ago, Lunar Prospector returned significant data pertaining to the Moon’s gravity, internal composition, origins and water-ice content. Image Credit: NASA

Twenty years ago, NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft began an 18-month mission of discovery, revealing the Moon to potentially harbor vast water-ice reserves at its poles and offering tantalizing clues of a small, iron-rich core and the most diminutive magnetic field then known to exist in the Solar System. “A voyage to rediscover the Moon” was Public Affairs Officer (PAO) George Diller’s remark at 9:28 p.m. EST on 6 January 1998, as a four-stage Athena 2 booster smoothly delivered Lunar Prospector into the night from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Diller’s words echoed the fact that a full quarter-century had passed since humans last flew to the Moon and underscored a reality that lunar exploration had gone almost unnoticed. The astonishing discoveries of Lunar Prospector caused a stark re-evaluation of scientific thinking about our nearest celestial neighbor. Indeed, its findings continue to resonate today, as efforts to settle the Moon with humans gather pace.

Continue reading Rediscovering the Moon: 20 Years Since Lunar Prospector

Curiosity Rover Finds Seasonal Clues About Martian Methane and Investigates Unusual 'Stick' Formations

MAHLI view of the unusual “tubes” or “sticks” seen by the Curiosity rover on sol 1922. Their origin is currently being debated. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As we enter 2018, NASA’s Curiosity rover continues to be busy exploring on top of Vera Rubin Ridge, on the lower flanks of Mount Sharp. The rover is gradually making its way farther up the flanks, closing in the picturesque foothills in front of it. As it does so, Curiosity has made two new interesting discoveries, which may have implications for the possibility of life.

Continue reading Curiosity Rover Finds Seasonal Clues About Martian Methane and Investigates Unusual ‘Stick’ Formations

Remembering John Young, an 'Astronaut's Astronaut', Gone at Age 87

Apollo 16 Commander John Young gazes across the rugged terrain during humanity’s fifth piloted lunar landing. Photo Credit: NASA

John Young, one of only 12 humans to have walked the dusty surface of the Moon, one of only three of mankind’s sons to have traveled twice to lunar distance, the only astronaut to fly aboard Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle, and the first person to record six space missions, has died, aged 87. Known to posterity as “The Astronaut’s Astronaut”, Young was a titanic figure in NASA’s astronaut corps for more than four decades. His passing brings to five the total number of veteran Moonwalkers who are still with us.

Continue reading Remembering John Young, an ‘Astronaut’s Astronaut’, Gone at Age 87