Balancing Cost and Science: NASA Examines Less Expensive Mission Design for Europa Lander

Artist’s conception of the Europa lander. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The push for a return mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa has been gaining steam in the last few years, with NASA now planning for Europa Clipper, which would make repeated close flybys to study the moon’s interior ocean and the exciting potential for life. There has also been more talk about a possible lander to examine the moon’s surface up close. Such a mission would be expensive of course, but NASA is now studying possible ways to lessen the costs while maintaining good science return.

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ULA to Launch NROL-42 'Trumpet' Eavesdropping Satellite from Vandenberg Thursday

NROL-42 Mission Patch. Credit: NRO

ULA is all systems GO for a launch attempt tomorrow night, Sep 21, from Vandenberg AFB, CA with a classified surveillance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), after completing a launch readiness review earlier today.

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Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK for $9.2 Billion

Orbital ATK Antares rocket with Cygnus, bound for the International Space Station. The company has been sold to Northrop Grumman for over $9 billion. Photo Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

FALLS CHURCH and DULLES, Va. – Sept. 18, 2017 – Northrop Grumman Corporation and Orbital ATK today announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $1.4 billion in net debt. Orbital ATK shareholders will receive all-cash consideration of $134.50 per share.

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'Sustained Program of Exploration': 20 Years Since the Arrival of the Mars Global Surveyor

Artistic rendering of Mars, made from images taken with NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. Image Credit: Kees Veenenbos/MOLA Science Team/NASA

Twenty years ago, this week, NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor settled into orbit around the Red Planet, to begin what NASA described as “a sustained program of exploration” of our third-closest celestial neighbour after the Moon and Venus. Its arrival came just a few weeks after the arrival of Pathfinder—and the Sojourner rover—and signaled a remarkable shift in U.S. space policy, as an unbroken period of study of Mars study got underway. Two decades later, although Global Surveyor has long since ceased to function, that period of study continued unabated, with missions in orbit and on the ground and many more waiting in the wings for launch in the coming years. Its success today seems all the more remarkable, for the spacecraft suffered a potentially life-limiting series of problems, within hours of launch.

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History’s First Space Ace, Taking Out a Satellite with an F-15

Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson stands with his modified F-15A, prior to shooting down a satellite on Sept. 13, 1985. Photo: USAF

Thirty-two years ago this week, on Sept. 13, 1985, an accomplished F-15 test pilot named Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson (now a retired Maj. Gen.) took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on a mission which would see him do something no astronaut or fighter pilot had done before, and it would make him history’s first space ace.

The mission, called “Celestial Eagle”, was the culmination of a six year anti-satellite (or ASAT) missile development and test program, and Maj. Pearson commanded the USAF F-15 Anti-Satellite Combined Test Force.

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USAF Awards Lockheed GPS M-Code Early Use (MCEU) Ground System Upgrade Contract

The Military Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU) contract will accelerate deployment of command and control of M-Code capability to GPS IIR-M and GPS IIF satellites currently on orbit, as well as future GPS III satellites (like GPS III SV02 above), which the Air Force expects to begin launching in 2018. Credits: Lockheed Martin

MCEU will accelerate deployment of modernized GPS signals to warfighters

DENVER, Sept. 12, 2017 – The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $45.5 million contract to provide Military Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU) capability to the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Part of the Air Force’s overall modernization plan for the GPS, M-Code is an advanced, new signal designed to improve anti-jamming and protection from spoofing, as well as to increase secure access, to military GPS signals for U.S. and allied armed forces.

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'All Good Things': Cassini Finishes Its Epic Mission at Saturn In a Blaze of Glory

A last look at Saturn: mosaic made from images taken on Sept. 13, 2017 by Cassini. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Jason Major

The moment that many people have been waiting for – albeit with great sadness – has finally arrived, with the Cassini spacecraft ending its mission in a literal blaze of glory. At 4:55 AM PT on Sept. 15, the long-lived explorer plummeted into Saturn’s atmosphere for its final act, bringing to a close a 13-year study of Saturn and its moons. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and now that time has come for Cassini, which has transformed our knowledge about Saturn and its many bizarre and strange moons.

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Florida Spaceports Recovering from Irma, No Launches Until Oct

Launch Complex 39 surrounding areas are seen during an aerial survey of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 12, 2017. The survey was performed to identify structures and facilities that may have sustained damage from Hurricane Irma as the storm passed Kennedy on September 10, 2017. NASA closed the center ahead of the storm’s onset and only a small team of specialists known as the Rideout Team was on the center as the storm approached and passed. Credits: NASA

Hurricane Irma’s path may have been far west of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Patrick Air Force Base (PAFB), but Florida’s Space Coast still took a beating nonetheless.

That’s because, according to the National Weather Service, the heaviest rainfall occurred east of Irma’s path, where its outer rain bands and strong wind gusts carried on relentlessly, aided by the storm’s forward motion up the state’s west coast, while also dropping tornadoes up and down the Atlantic coast.

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Expedition 53 Ready to Expand to Six-Man Strength With Soyuz MS-06 Launch

Soyuz MS-06 launches from Site 1/5 at Baikonur, three weeks shy of the 60th anniversary since Sputnik 1 rose from the same complex. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

Three new crew members are en-route to the International Space Station (ISS), following an on-time launch of Soyuz MS-06 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff of Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin and his U.S. crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba occurred at 3:17 a.m. local time Wednesday (5:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday) and at the time of writing the trio are following a six-hour and four-orbit “fast rendezvous”, with the expectation that they will dock at the station’s space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at 10:57 p.m. EDT. Misurkin, Vande Hei and Acaba will form the second half of the incumbent Expedition 53, commanded by veteran NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik. When Expedition 53 returns to Earth in mid-December, Misurkin will assume command of Expedition 54, through late February 2018.

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Juno Finds Jupiter's Powerful Auroras 'Defy Earthly Laws of Physics'

Auroras at Jupiter’s north pole, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Juno’s observations show that they are much more powerful than previously thought. Photo Credit: ASA/ESA/J. Nichols/University of Leicester

Although NASA’s Cassini mission is now coming to an end at Saturn, the Juno spacecraft is continuing to orbit Jupiter, sending back an incredible amount of science and stunning images of the largest planet in our Solar System. The results have scientists excited, since not only are they providing more insight and adding to what we know about Jupiter, they are also showing how the planet is a lot different than had been assumed. This includes the planet’s polar auroras, which seem to behave different from would be expected, based on what is known about auroras on Earth.

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