United Launch Alliance (ULA) is celebrating its successful 75th launch tonight, after an electrifying night-time liftoff of an Atlas V booster from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Despite concerns about high-level winds and thick clouds at altitude – which prompted the Eastern Range to declare itself “Red” (“No Go”) and enforced a 66-minute delay into the two-hour “launch window” – the venerable Atlas speared into the darkened Florida sky at 4:10 a.m. EDT Wednesday. Aboard the vehicle is the U.S. Air Force’s third Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-3) satellite, destined to form part of a “constellation” of spacecraft to provide fast and secure communications to link civilian leaders with military commanders and assets, anywhere in the world. READ MORE »
Three new residents for the International Space Station have arrived safely at the expansive orbital outpost, following a record-setting “fast rendezvous”. Soyuz TMA-09M Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia, together with Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA’s Karen Nyberg, docked successfully at the Earth-facing Rassvet module at 10:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday, some five hours and 39 minutes after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This slightly eclipsed the previous record of five hours and 45 minutes, set by Soyuz TMA-08M crewmen Pavel Vinogradov, Aleksandr Misurkin and Chris Cassidy, who journeyed to the ISS in late March. Less than two hours after docking – following standard pressure and other checks – the hatches were opened and Vinogradov’s team welcomed the new arrivals as the second half of Expedition 36. READ MORE »
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Providing a strong showing for itself, United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV medium rocket thundered off of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at the opening of its launch window at 8:27 p.m. EDT Friday, May 24. In so doing, it returned the launch vehicle to service after an issue cropped up during the Delta IV’s previous launch. Unique angles, incredible imagery, and an epic return to flight were all part of a day’s work. READ MORE »
United Launch Alliance’s venerable Atlas V booster is set to roar aloft on 15 May on a mission to place the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-4 satellite into medium orbit, more than 11,000 miles above Earth. The new mission will keep the Navstar network of worldwide positioning, velocity and timing assets fully operational until the next-generation GPS Block IIIA comes online, sometime in 2014.
Liftoff of the Atlas V – which will fly in its “401” configuration, with a 4-meter-wide (13-foot) payload fairing, no strap-on rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage – is scheduled to occur within a short “window”, extending from 5:38-5:56 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Notably, this will be the first GPS launch aboard an Atlas in almost 28 years.
When Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket roared into orbit Sunday, most eyes were focused on the performance of the new vehicle on its maiden voyage or on the deployment of an inert mass simulator for the Cygnus cargo ship. However, one set of payloads aboard the “A-ONE” mission received relatively little attention. They were quietly ejected from the second stage of Antares at 5:09 p.m. EDT, right on the edge of space, and nine minutes after the booster rocketed away from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va.
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WALLOPS ISLAND, Va — Orbital Sciences Corp. has successfully launched its Antares rocket on the long-delayed “A-ONE” test flight from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. Liftoff of the 133-foot-tall vehicle – the first cryogenically-propelled rocket ever built and flown by Orbital – occurred on time at 5:00:02 p.m. EDT, right at the start of the launch window. Antares’ beautiful ascent into the early evening sky has surely raised an unbearable weight from the shoulders of Orbital, whose next focus after this mission is to conduct a full-up demo of its Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station, possibly as soon as June. READ MORE »
Two days after a disappointing scrub, late in the countdown for its “A-ONE” maiden voyage, the Antares booster stands ready for a second launch attempt from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at the weekend. On Wednesday afternoon, at 4:48 p.m. EDT – a mere 12 minutes ahead of the scheduled liftoff time – Orbital Sciences Corp. flight controllers scrubbed the attempt after a data umbilical linking the Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) to the rocket’s second stage had prematurely disconnected. Orbital’s Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson, who serves as Mission Director for the A-ONE flight, described the issue as “fairly straightforward” to resolve and engineers are presently pushing towards Saturday 20 April at 5:00 p.m. for the next attempt. READ MORE »
Despite fluctuating worries about cloudy weather conditions, it was the premature separation of a loose second-stage umbilical which ended today’s attempt to get Orbital Sciences’ new Antares rocket into orbit on its “A-ONE” maiden voyage. The countdown to launch from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., proceeded normally until less than 30 minutes before the scheduled 5:00 p.m. EDT liftoff time, when “an anomaly” was noted and the long-awaited launch was called off. Early indications are that a delay of perhaps 48 hours will be necessary to ready Antares for another attempt, although this has yet to be officially confirmed. READ MORE »
In the early days of space exploration, the frequent term of the week was “A-OK,” but for Orbital Sciences Corp. this week everything will center on “A-ONE,” the maiden voyage of the company’s long-awaited Antares launch vehicle. Liftoff of the 133-foot-tall rocket is scheduled to occur from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., at 5 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, 17 April. Final preparations are ongoing and have been highlighted by a 29-second hot-fire test of Antares’ twin AJ-26 engines on 22 February and, most recently, the one-mile rollout of the vehicle from its assembly building to the pad on 6 April. READ MORE »
A new set of powerful infrared eyes should take up residency in orbit, more than 22,000 miles above our heads, in less than a week’s time, when the Pentagon launches the next member of its multi-billion-dollar Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS). Liftoff of the GEO-2 mission – the second satellite of its generation destined for Geosynchronous Earth Orbit – is currently scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., atop United Launch Alliance’s venerable Atlas V 401 booster at the start of a 40-minute ‘window’, which opens at 5:21 p.m. EDT on 19 March. Processing for the impending mission continues to go well and the SBIRS GEO-2 satellite was encapsulated in its two-piece payload fairing on 4 March, ahead of stacking atop the Atlas.
According to the Pentagon and SBIRS’ prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, the system represents the latest effort to replace the outdated Defense Support Program (DSP) network of infrared missile early-warning satellites, whose ancestry stretches back to the early 1970s. It is confidently expected that SBIRS will enable the United States’ space surveillance needs for at least the next two decades, with specific focuses including advanced early warning, missile defense and battlespace characterization. In its final form, it will comprise at least four satellites in geosynchronous orbit, together with sensors aboard two others in highly-elliptical orbits (HEO-1 and 2) – which were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in June 2006 and March 2008 – and an expansive ground-based command, control and data-processing network. Following numerous delays, caused by software malfunctions and other hardware deficiencies, the first dedicated Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO-1) SBIRS was successfully lofted from Cape Canaveral, atop an Atlas V 401, in May 2011. READ MORE »
The cold light of day is one of those idioms used in conjunction with the grimness of reality, but today’s rousing launch of SpaceX’s third Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station—and its second under the terms of the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA—experienced no such grimness. For the on-time liftoff of CRS-2 at 10:10 a.m. EST was the first occasion on which an ISS-bound Dragon rose from Earth in daylight; both its inaugural demonstration mission to the station in May 2012 and last October’s first dedicated cargo flight roared aloft in the hours of darkness. READ MORE »
The last twelve months have truly been a rollercoaster ride for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)—the Hawthorne, Calif., company, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk—whose Falcon 9 rocket and unmanned Dragon cargo craft thundered into the public consciousness in both a positive and negative light. In May 2012, Dragon triumphantly flew a demonstration flight to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial craft ever to have a spacecraft be berthed there, and in October its maiden Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) mission under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA was successfully concluded. That success, however, was tempered by an engine-out anomaly, just 80 seconds after launch, which spelled disaster for a small Orbcomm piggyback satellite. Now, almost five months later, another Falcon 9 and fully-loaded Dragon stand ready at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida—primed to restore an otherwise-proud reputation. READ MORE »
A new Earth-watching sentinel is presently circling the globe in near-polar orbit, following today’s beautiful launch of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The spacecraft – which represents the eighth in a series of satellites, dating back to July 1972 – was successfully boosted aloft by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket at 10:02 am PST (1:02 pm EST), right on the opening of the 48-minute ‘window’. Liftoff occurred from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3, under clear skies, and was watched by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The launch kicks off a planned five-year mission which will provide moderate-resolution imaging of the Home Planet’s terrestrial and polar regions at visible and infrared wavelengths. This is expected to support future land planning, disaster response and water-use monitoring, together with maintaining a watchful eye on Earth’s climate, ecosystems, water cycle, surface and interior dynamics. The LDCM spacecraft is part of a collaborative effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. According to Project Scientist Jim Irons of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., it is quite simply “the best Landsat satellite yet launched in terms of quality and quantity of data”.