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In this photo, taken on June 13, 2019, engineers at JPL install the starboard legs and wheels — otherwise known as the mobility suspension — on the Mars 2020 rover. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In early June, a public webcam was installed in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and lately there has been a lot of activity to watch.  In recent weeks, engineers have been busy assembling the Mars 2020 rover in preparation for its scheduled launch in July 2020. On June 13, 2019, the team installed one of the rover’s most critical pieces of hardware.

What is referred to as the mobility suspension is, essentially, the vehicle’s legs and wheels, and were put into place on both sides of the rover.

“Now that’s a Mars rover,” said David Gruel, the Mars 2020 assembly, test, and launch operations manager at JPL via a release issued by JPL. “With the suspension on, not only does it look like a rover, but we have almost all our big-ticket items for integration in our rearview mirror – if our rover had one.”

The rover’s primary mission is to seek out signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet. It will also collect and set aside a cache of soil and rock samples for a possible return mission and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration of Mars.

The rover’s legs are made of titanium tubing formed with the same process used to manufacture high-end bicycle frames. The wheels shown in the photo above are engineering models and will be swapped out for the flight models sometime next.

The Mars 2020 rover’s six wheels are made of aluminum and have 48 grousers, or cleats, machined into their surfaces to provide traction in both soft sand and on hard rocks. Each wheel has its own motor and the front and back wheels have individual turning motors, enabling the rover to turn 360 degrees in place.

In the next few weeks, the team expects to install the rover’s robotic arm, the mast-mounted SuperCam instrument and the Sample Caching System. Mars 2020 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air station in Florida in July 2020 and, if all goes well, land at Jezero crater on February 18, 2021.

The pace of the Mars 2020 program continues to accelerate as the launch date drawers closer. The space agency recently announced that it had chosen two partner organizations to run a contest across the United States designed to allow K-12 students in U.S. schools an opportunity to name the rover. The two organizations selected were Battelle Education, of Columbus, Ohio, and Future Engineers, of Burbank, California.

“We’re very excited about this exceptional partnership,” said George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive in NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “Contests like this present excellent opportunities to invite young students and educators to be a part of this journey to understand the possibilities for life beyond Earth and to advance new capabilities in exploration technology.”

When it flies, the mission will get its start from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. At present, the launch date is scheduled to take place sometime between July 17 and August 5.

Engineers prepare the starboard legs and wheels – otherwise known as the mobility suspension – for integration onto NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The post NASA’s Mars 2020 rover gets its legs and wheels appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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The STP-2 Falcon Heavy rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on June 25, 2019. Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Although STP-2 didn’t launch right on time, before the close of Monday’s launch window – the job got done. History was seared into every inch of Florida’s skies after the Falcon Heavy rocket left the pad at 2:30 a.m. EDT (06:30 GMT) on Tuesday, June 25.

SpaceX launched the Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission atop one of the company’s massive Falcon Heavy rockets from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first of three satellite deployments began about 12 minutes after liftoff with the last one sent on its way about 3 hours and 32 minutes after the rocket had left the pad.

As is the case with most current Falcon flights, the first stage boosters had been used before. Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for STP-2 were used on the Arabsat-6A mission in April of 2019. With their role complete, the two side boosters touched down at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rocket’s center core wasn’t as fortunate. It splashed into the ocean near the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was positioned out in the Atlantic Ocean to collect it. 

Still, for those with payloads sent aloft on this mission, the flight was a resounding success.

“This was a momentous launch for NASA, NOAA, and the DOD,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, program executive officer for Space Development. “The SpaceX Falcon Heavy allows the Air Force to begin using previously flown rocket technology to further reduce the cost of launch. This mission demonstrated SMC’s continuing commitment to leverage the most innovative technologies to deliver cost-effective space capabilities.”

The following photos were taken by SpaceFlight Insider’s visual team and are courtesy of Mike Howard, Scott Schilke and Vikash Mahadeo. If you enjoy our coverage and are able, consider supporting us on Patreon to help in our efforts to to bring you fantastic content about the space industry!

[See image gallery at spaceflightinsider.com]

The post Gallery: Falcon Heavy pushes back the night on STP-2 flight appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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NASA’s Anne McClain, left, Russia’s Oleg Kononenko, center, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques in their Sokol launch and entry suits aboard the ISS several days before their departure in Soyuz MS-11. Photo Credit: NASA

Three International Space Station crew members returned to Earth in the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft, bringing an end to their 204-day mission.

Soyuz MS-11 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques landed safely at 10:47 p.m. EDT June 24 (02:47 GMT June 25), 2019, on the Kazakh Steppe in Kazakhstan.

Soyuz MS-11 docked to the Poisk module on the space-facing side of the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

The trio had been in orbit since Dec. 3, 2018, when they launched to the ISS to join the in-progress Expedition 57 crew. Over the course of their seven-month stay aboard the ISS, they travelled 86.4 million miles over 3,264 orbits around Earth.

On Dec. 20, they transitioned to Expedition 58 when the Soyuz MS-09 crew left. Once Soyuz MS-12 launched and docked to the ISS on March 15, they formed the six-person Expedition 59 crew. Kononenko was the commander of both Expedition 58 and 59.

According to NASA, “the Expedition 59 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, including investigations into small devices that replicate the structure and function of human organs, editing DNA in space for the first time and recycling 3D-printed material.”

Moreover, the trio saw the arrival five visiting vehicles, including two SpaceX Dragon cargo ships, the first (unpiloted) Crew Dragon spacecraft, a Russian Progress freighter and the Northrop Grumman NG-11 Cygnus spacecraft.

Additionally, they oversaw all three Dragon vehicles depart as well as the Cygnus NG-10 spacecraft, which had already been aboard the outpost upon their December 2018 arrival.

The Soyuz MS-11 capsule descends with its parachute toward the Kazakh Steppe. Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

All three space flyers performed spacewalks during their orbital stay. McClain, who was on her first mission, conducted two extravehicular activities totaling 13 hours, 8 minutes. Saint-Jacques, also on his first mission, performed a single spacewalk lasting six hours, 29 minutes.

Kononenko, on his fourth mission, performed two spacewalks totaling 13 hours, 46 minutes. However, according to NASA his career total is 32 hours, 13 minutes over five spacewalks.

The Soyuz MS-11 capsule ignited its soft landing jets about a meter off the ground to cushion the impact. Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

The 204-day Soyuz MS-11 mission also brings the cosmonaut’s total space endurance to 737 days, good enough for sixth place for most time spent in orbit.

For comparison, the person with the most time spent in space is retired Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka at 878 days over five missions.

Soyuz MS-11 undocked from the International Space Station’s Poisk module at 7:25 p.m. EDT (23:25 GMT) June 24.

“Bye bye, see you soon guys,” Kononenko said moments after the Soyuz separated from the ISS.

Remaining aboard the ISS are Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch. Upon the undocking of Soyuz MS-11, they formally began the Expedition 60 mission, which is slated to last until early October.

“Soft landing guys, godspeed. We’ll see you back on Earth,” said Ovchinin, now the commander of Expedition 60.

Several hours later, the vehicle performed a deorbit burn lasting four minutes, 39 seconds to lower the spacecraft’s orbit to intersect with Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The burn occurred at about 10 p.m. EDT (02:00 GMT) and culminated in the safe parachute-assisted landing some 50 minutes later some 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

After Oleg Kononenko and Anne McClain were extracted from the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft, David Saint-Jacques was removed. Photo Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA

Less than 30 minutes after their touchdown, the trio was recovered by Russian search and recovery teams. Upon the Soyuz hatch opening, the three space flyers were treated to their first fresh air in more than 200 days. The temperature at the landing area was roughly 71 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) with a slight breeze.

After being extracted from the capsule, they were each placed in nearby couches to rest as their body begins the long process to re-adjust to Earth’s gravity. After a few minutes, they were moved to an inflatable medical tent to remove their Sokol launch and entry suits before being flown by helicopter to Karaganda, the capital of Kazakhstan.

Once their, they parted ways. Kononenko was flown back to Russia while McClain and Saint-Jacques began an 18-hour flight to Houston.

The current three-person Expedition 60 crew is expected to be joined by three additional crew members on July 20 when Soyuz MS-13 launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome with Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano.

Expedition 59 Crew Lands Safely in Kazakhstan - YouTube

Video courtesy of NASA

The post Soyuz MS-11 trio returns to Earth after 7 months in space appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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SpaceX launches its third Falcon Heavy rocket with the STP-2 mission. Photo Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is starting to become a frequent flyer of Florida’s skies. The rocket’s third flight checked off several boxes of “firsts” for the massive launch vehicle.

Lifting off at 2:30 a.m. EDT (06:30 GMT) June 25, 2019, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, this was the first night launch of the 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) Falcon Heavy rocket. However, this was three hours later than originally planned, with SpaceX citing extra ground systems checkouts following a ground hydraulic issue as the reason for delay.

A long exposure of the STP-2 mission from Kissimmee, Florida. Photo Credit: Vikash Mahadeo / SpaceFlight Insider

The purpose for the night time fireworks display was the delivery of a wide range of payloads hefted aloft on behalf of the United States Air Force as part of Space Test Program 2 (STP-2).

“It’s an exciting partnership with NASA, NOAA and SpaceX to provide space access for important military and civil experiments while demonstrating the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle capabilities for future operational National Security Space missions,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space. “The STP-2 mission exemplifies our SMC 2.0 transformation—we’re pursuing innovative new ways to deliver space capabilities for the Air Force and the Defense Department.”

Primary launch operations began a little less than an hour before T-0 with the go ahead for propellant loading. Rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) began flowing into the rocket’s first stage at about 50 minutes ahead of liftoff, with liquid oxygen loading beginning five minutes later.

RP-1 began flowing into the second stage at T-minus 35 minutes. Just over 15 minutes later, liquid oxygen loading began for the stage.

As the countdown neared zero, the combined 27 first stage Merlin 1D engines began chilling to be conditioned for flight. At 90 seconds, the flight computer began final pre-launch checks. Thirty seconds later, the propellant tanks began pressurizing to flight pressures.

Photo Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA

With everything looking good, SpaceX’s launch director verified the mission was go for launch. At two seconds, the 27 engines ignited and began spooling up to flight-level thrust. After that, the Falcon Heavy took flight.

Within 42 seconds of liftoff, the booster stack reached Max-Q, the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket as it accelerates through Earth’s lower atmosphere.

The two side boosters continued burning until about 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the flight before cutting their engines off and separating. Less than 20 seconds later, a subset of three engines on each re-ignited and began boosting back toward Cape Canaveral.

Meanwhile, the center core continued burning until a mission elapsed time of roughly 3 minutes, 27 seconds. Upon engine shutdown, the core separated from the second stage and began re-orienting itself for its trip back toward Earth.

The second stage ignited its lone Vacuum Merlin engine shortly after stage separation. It continued to burn for another five minutes to enter its first orbit.

STP-2 was a big deal in a number of ways. It marked the first time hardware for the Defense Department flew atop a Falcon Heavy. It was also the first time the rocket launched multiple payloads into different orbits.

STP-2 Animation - YouTube

STP-2 deployment animation. Video courtesy of SpaceX

Only about 12 minutes had elapsed from the time the Falcon Heavy left the pad until the first payload was sent on its way. A little more than three hours and 34 minutes after the start of the mission, and assuming all goes well, the final spacecraft will be deployed.

At the mission’s conclusion, Falcon Heavy’s STP-2 flight will have completed 20 deployments, placing 24 separate spacecraft in three different orbits. Not bad for a night’s work.

The United States Air Force wasn’t alone in using the Falcon heavy to send send its payloads to orbit. Both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also had spacecraft, with critical missions, tucked inside the rocket’s expansive payload fairing.

The two side boosters performing their boost back burn shortly after separating from the center core. Photo Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA

As noted, SpaceX has made the reuse of the rocket’s first stages seem almost routine (although nothing involving liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellant can ever be described as routine). The STP-2 mission was no different. The triple-body design utilized by the Falcon Heavy has the capability of seeing all three of its first stage cores land.

The two exterior boosters were previously used on the April 11, 2019, Arabsat-6A mission. Those boosters once again touched safely back down at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zones 1 and 2. 

Meanwhile, the center core attempted to land out in the Atlantic Ocean on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You.” However, something during the landing burn appeared to go wrong. Cameras aboard the drone ship showed the core flying nearly horizontally away from the platform to crash into the ocean a short distance away.

It’s important to note that this was the most challenging landing attempt ever made by SpaceX with the drone ship positioned a record-setting 774 miles (1,245 kilometers) downrange.

In another first, SpaceX’s recovery ship Ms. Tree (formerly Mr. Steven) successfully caught a payload fairing half inside its giant net. This was announced by SpaceX more than an hour after launch. The Falcon payload fairing deploys a parafoil during its descent and can soft land in the water. However, avoiding the corrosive nature of salt water is preferred.

SpaceX has tried (unsuccessfully) to recover payload fairings via a ship with a net for more than a year.

In addition to the STP-2 mission being the third Falcon Heavy flight and the second of 2019, this was SpaceX’s eighth launch of the year. With the two landed side boosters, the company has successfully landed its Falcon cores 43 times.

SpaceX’s next planned rocket launch is expected to be the CRS-18 Dragon mission, which has a targeted launch date of July 21, 2019. It’s primary cargo is set to be the third International Docking Adapter (IDA-3).

IDA-3 is set to join IDA-2 (also launched by a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship) at the International Space Station in order to facilitate multiple Commercial Crew vehicles at the outpost. IDA-1 was destroyed during a June 2015 Falcon 9 launch failure.

STP-2 Mission - YouTube

Video courtesy of SpaceX

The post Night time is the right time for SpaceX STP-2 mission appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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An Atlas V 551 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The rocket launched the AEHF-4 satellite into orbit on Oct. 17, 2018.. Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket with the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) satellite for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center will have to wait a little longer before taking flight.

A vehicle battery failure was uncovered during the final processing of the mission which had been slated for launch on June 27. In order to review the situation and replace the battery will require the launch date to slip to no earlier than Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

The post Battery failure delays Atlas V launch until July appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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SpaceX launched the second of one of the company’s Falcon Heavy rockets on Thursday, April 11. Photo Credit: Scott Schilke / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Clearing one of the last hurdles before the flight of the Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission early next week, SpaceX is preparing for the first night launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket.

The Hawthorne, California-based company conducted a successful static test fire of its Falcon Heavy rocket, which is currently the most powerful launch vehicle in service, late on June 19, 2019. The test fire is one of the last milestones the company conducts prior to flight.

The STP-2 mission will be the third, and first nighttime, flight. The personnel working at SpaceX’s Mission Control have a 4-hour window that opens at 11:30 p.m. ET on June 24, 2019 (03:30 GMT on June 25) in which to get the mission underway.

The Mission

Though not the heaviest payload that a Falcon Heavy has launched so far, STP-2 will be the most complex mission the heavy-lift rocket has undertaken. Indeed, SpaceX noted that the mission will be one of the more challenging ever performed by the company. Per SpaceX:

The STP-2 multi-manifest (rideshare) launch will demonstrate the capabilities of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle and provide critical data supporting certification for future National Security Space Launch (NSSL) missions. In addition, SMC will use this mission as a pathfinder for the development of mission assurance policies and procedures related to the reuse of launch vehicle boosters. The STP-2 payloads are assembled from a host of mission partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), DoD research laboratories, and university research projects. STP-2 provides a unique space access opportunity for DoD and inter-agency science and technology missions that directly enhance the space capabilities of the U.S. and its allies and partners.

Much like the payloads themselves, the clients who are included on Monday’s flight are diverse as well. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), DoD research laboratories, and university research projects all have payloads on STP-2’s manifest.

If everything goes as it is currently planned the launch, which is being managed by the United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), should see 24 separate satellites deployed to three separate initial orbits across four individual upper-stage engine burns.

The Rocket

SpaceX, as a company, was designed on the idea that it was possible to reduce the cost of sending payloads to orbit and begin crewed flights to the planet Mars. The Falcon Heavy could be a big part of that.

Standing an imposing 230 feet (70 meters), the Falcon Heavy measures about 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter and runs off of a mix of liquid oxygen and RP-1 (a highly-refined form of kerosene). Using 27 Merlin 1D rocket engines, the Falcon Heavy has the ability to send some 140,660 lbs (63,800 kg) to low-Earth orbit and 58,860 lbs (26,700 kgs) to a geostationary transfer orbit.

Despite its immense size, the rocket is nimble and, like the Falcon 9, is capable of having its first stages land, either at a location near the launch site or out at sea on one of two autonomous spaceport drone ships. 

The post Successful static fire clears way for launch of third Falcon Heavy flight appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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Arianespace’s AV248 mission lifts off atop an Ariane 5 ECA rocket on Thursday, June 19, 2019 with its payload of the AT&T and T-16 EUTELSAT 7C communications satellites. Photo Credit: Arianespace

KOUROU, French Guiana — Arianespace conducted its fifth flight of  2019 when it launched an Ariane 5 ECA rocket and its payload of two communications satellites at 6:43 p.m. local time from Guiana Space Centre’s ELA-3 launch site.  Today’s launch comes at a time when the company is facing increasing pressure from SpaceX.

The VA248 mission (the official designation for today’s flight) marked the second time that an Ariane 5 has taken to the skies above French Guiana’s jungles so far this year. The twin payloads for this mission was the AT&T T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C satellites, which were bound for a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). With the successful completion of today’s mission, Arianespace has sent 606 satellites aloft.

AT&T T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C satellites inside Guiana Spaceport’s S5 building. Photo Credit: Arianespace

Today’s flight was the 104th for a member of the Ariane 5 family and the seventy-first for the ECA variant of the launch vehicle. Controllers had about an hour and 47 minutes in the launch window but managed to get started within a couple minutes of the opening of the window.

Today’s success comes at a time when Arianespace is struggling to keep up with a relatively new competitor in the Launch Service Provider market – SpaceX.

Since the NewSpace firm’s arrival in the Launch Service Provider arena, Arianespace has seen a downturn in the amount of launches it annually conducts. It appears that cost might be one of the reasons 

A typical Ariane 5 launch can cost anywhere between $165-$220 million, the company’s Soyuz rocket comes in at approximately $80 million per flight with Arianespace’s smallest booster, Vega, coming in at about $37 million each.

SpaceX charges an estimated $62 million per flight on one of the company’s Falcon 9 launchers, beating out both Arianespace’s large and medium offerings. The Falcon Heavy (which is currently the most powerful rocket in service) costs $90 million per flight. The third flight of the 230-foot-tall (70 meter) rocket is currently scheduled for Monday, June 24.

Arianespace is trying to remain competitive. A report posted on Reuters last year noted how the French-based aerospace firm was working to reduce the cost of launching payloads on the new Ariane 6 rocket. The head of the company expressed his appreciation for Arianespace’s clients.

“I would like to thank our two loyal customers for entrusting us with the launch of their T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C satellites. This second Ariane 5 launch of the year reaffirms the reliability of our heavy-lift launcher and its leadership in the geostationary market. We are very proud to count 24 GEO satellites in our order book. Some of them will be launched by Ariane 6, the new-generation launch vehicles scheduled to make its first flight in 2020,”  Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace, said via a company-issued announcement.

Arianespace TV - VA248 Full Launch - YouTube

Video courtesy of Arianespace

The post Under increasing pressure from SpaceX, Arianespace launches telecommunications satellites appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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Artist’s depiction of Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in the vicinity of the International Space Station. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

TITUSVILLE, Fla. — After the end of the Shuttle Program it appeared space operations at the Cape might be on the downturn. Appearances can be deceiving however. Boeing, the largest aerospace company in the world – is moving some of its operations to the Sunshine State.

Boeing announced on Wednesday, June 19 that the headquarters of its Space and Launch division would be relocated to Titusville, Florida. At present, those headquarters are located in Arlington, Virginia. With Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base, all situated along Florida’s Space Coast and with Boeing’s X-37B and Starliner spacecraft already flying or about to fly from the Cape – the move makes sense.

“Looking to the future, this storied Florida space community will be the center of gravity for Boeing’s space programs as we continue to build our company’s leadership beyond gravity,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and Chief Executive Officer Leanne Caret via a company-issued release. “The time is right for us to locate our space headquarters where so much of our space history was made over the past six decades and where so much history awaits.”

Archive photo of ULA Atlas V 501 on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 before a prior OTV launch. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

Boeing already has a substantial presence at KSC and the Cape. The USAF’s classified X-37B shuttle launches from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41). SLC-41 is also the site where Boeing hopes to complete not one, but two test flights of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft later this year (2019).

This newly-announced move should help Boeing build on the infrastructure it has in place after six decades of working at the Cape. In recent years, Boeing has expanded its presence at Kennedy Space Center in particular.

After the close of the Shuttle Program, Boeing entered into agreements with NASA to use the shuttles’ Orbiter Processing Facilities for the company’s X-37B and Starliner vehicles. With some of their key spacecraft being processed at KSC, moving the headquarters nearby could aid in efficiency in the processing and fielding of these vehicles.

Spacecraft can’t reach their destination without rockets to send them to orbit and Boeing is involved with the production and development of these as well. As a part of United Launch Alliance (which was founded in December of 2006 as a joint venture with Lockheed Martin) Boeing is working toward the qualification and first operational flights of the new Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.

In terms of crewed missions into deep space. The 102-year-old company is prepping the first core stages of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) super-heavy lift rocket. The Artemis-1 mission, SLS’ maiden flight could take to the skies as early as July 2020. However, a report published by The Washington Post suggests that mission might not launch until June of 2021.

At present Boeing’s Space and Launch division headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. Photo Credit: Boeing

“Boeing has been a dominant presence on the Space Coast for six decades, and this move represents a continuation of that legacy and future commitment,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Space and Launch.  “Expanding our Boeing presence on the Space Coast brings tremendous value for our commercial and government space programs through focused leadership, strategic investment, customer proximity and additional contributions to the vitality of the region.”

Boeing’s space-related operations are spread across the entire United States with facilities located in California, Texas, Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana. Boeing is involved in a wide range of space-related activities including operations on the International Space Station as well as U.S. national defense, telecommunications and scientific endeavors.

“Boeing will continue to be a dynamic space presence in its existing locations, contributing to the vitality of those aerospace hubs, collaborating with our regional partners, and inspiring future generations of space engineers, technicians and innovators,” Chilton said.

Naturally, Boeing is working to ensure continuation of services during this transitional period. 

“No impact is expected for Boeing space operations in other states. We will retain our space workforce in existing locations in California, Texas, Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana. This includes employees in the satellite business in Southern California, in the International Space Station program in Texas, and the Space Launch System program in Louisiana and Alabama. Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS), which Space and Launch is a part of, is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia,” Rebecca Regan, a spokesperson with Boeing told SpaceFlight Insider.

The post If it’s Boeing (space) – it’s going to Florida appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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Cover for “The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility” by Robert Zubrin. (Image Credit: Prometheus Books.)

Title: The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility
Author: Dr. Robert Zubrin
Publisher: Prometheus Books, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 395
ISBN: 978-1-63388-534-9
Retail Price: $25.00

The past decade of space travel has witnessed massive leaps in the viability of new commercial spaceflight ventures and the realignment of the national space agenda to return humans to the Moon and beyond. Mars exploration advocate and visionary Dr. Robert Zubrin has taken note of the current trajectory and returns with his newest book, “The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility”, building on the shoulders of past works including “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must” (1996) and “Mars on Earth: The Adventures of Space Pioneers in the High Arctic” (2003).

The book is written in a fashion typical of Zubrin’s style, which reflects his desire to present no-nonsense ideas for making humanity a space-faring species and fitting his vision within a broader historical arc. Central to his case is illustrating the present and historical context for ‘how’ and ‘why’ space travel operates before highlighting the deficiencies upon which we can and must improve in order to become truly space-faring. Upon building the technical foundation of his vision, he discusses the philosophical and historical imperative for ‘why’ we should expand beyond Earth and into the cosmos.

Each chapter lays bare the raw math, science, and economics of how his vision would unfold. He walks the reader through the math of launching to various destinations throughout the solar system, with a focus on terrestrial suborbital/orbital space, the Moon, and Mars, and presents the means to which economies of scale can be used to drive down the cost of doing so using existing technology. Starting from Earth and working out into the solar system and eventually the universe at large, his ideas become ever more creative (and perhaps radical). Despite this, Zubrin’s target audience is likely to understand that space travel concepts in the distant future are hard to envision when the requisite technologies of doing so do not yet exist. He remains grounded and in a passage towards the end of the book, he reflects on the difficulty of envisioning with precise detail how future technology will work, citing visions from the past that have attempted to project and address challenges that we face in today.

Zubrin’s discourse is guided by and anchored to economic principles and political realities. The ideas that he presents will be familiar to those who are well-versed in the articles, papers, and presentations that he has made over the past couple of decades since first publishing “The Case for Mars.” In the latter portion of “The Case for Space”, Zubrin lays out the philosophical imperative for why we should become a truly space-faring species and brings his broader world view into the fold to do so.

Zubrin argues that the continued innovation, prosperity, and relative peace enjoyed in the post World War II-era will rely heavily on the opening of a new frontier. He cites the American frontier as a major driver of the Industrial Revolution and for helping to introduce progressive democratic values to the rest of world. Zubrin points out that for the first time in human history, no accessible frontier exists to the masses and he argues that the best way to maintain freedom and forward progress is to open wide the frontier of space to all. Doing so would force explorers and settlers to confront the challenges of their new lifestyles which would lead to rapid technological and cultural advances on their end which could in return be exported back to Earth. In essence, the frontier of space would allow for the same social and technological experimentation that was only possible in the New World by breaking free of the Old.

The book may not immediately resonate with readers who could potentially be turned off by overtures to the colonial history of Earth or to those who believe the problems of Earth are best solved on Earth before venturing into space. However the underlying case that Zubrin proposes is grounded in economic and humanist theory that if believed has resulted in the vast improvement of the human condition over recent centuries. Zubrin paints a vision in which widespread space exploration fuels the forward technological and cultural progress of humanity, leading to the ultimate goal of achieving a high standard of living, liberty, and freedom for all people, regardless of where they reside in the universe.

“The Case for Space” will find a wide audience in the SpaceX and Blue Origin-era of commercial spaceflight. The book addresses the economic nature of spaceflight in updated terms that acknowledge both the growing influence of commercial spaceflight operations while also addressing changes in national space policy in recent years. I recommend “The Case for Space” to both seasoned readers of Zubrin’s past work and to those who seek to understand, as well as bolster their own arguments, as to how and why humanity can reach its full potential through space exploration beyond the visible horizon.

The post Book Review: “The Case For Space” appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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Artist’s depiction of the COSMIC-2 satellite on orbit. Image Credit: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to launch six remote-sensing micro-satellites next week, which will monitor weather in space and on Earth beginning approximately seven months after launch.

A joint endeavor among NOAA, the Taiwan National Space Organization (NSPO), the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), the project is named the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate or COSMIC-2. It is the successor to COSMIC, a system of weather-monitoring satellites launched in 2006.

Known as FORMOSAT-7 in Taiwan, the mission will feature six satellites in orbits near Earth’s equator. Approximately the size of a kitchen oven, each satellite will be equipped with three science instruments, which will study temperature and humidity in the tropics and sub-tropics, the regions on Earth with the most moisture. This distinguishes them from the satellites used in the first COSMIC mission, which orbited near the planet’s poles.

The science instruments will measure the density, temperature, pressure, and moisture in Earth’s atmosphere as well as electron density and space weather conditions in the ionosphere, the ionized region of Earth’s upper atmosphere, which extends 50 to 600 miles (80 to 1,000 km) above the planet’s surface.

Artist’s Rendering demonstration Radio Occultation Technique. Image Credit: The NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

Data collected by the science instruments will be used in NOAA computer models to predict weather conditions around the world as well as solar storms.

“This latest generation of COSMIC satellites will continue to build on the successes of the program. The COSMIC satellites keep scientists and forecasters informed of minute changes in the atmosphere and space, with this latest batch of satellites ensuring that this critical data is collected from the poles to the tropics,” emphasized Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. NOAA is a project of the US Department of Commerce.

Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, noted, “COSMIC-2, in concert with the infrared and microwave sounding instruments carried on polar-orbiting satellites operated by NOAA and its US and international partners, will help provide a complete set of global data for use in NOAA‘s operational weather prediction models.”

COSMIC-2 will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on June 24 at the earliest. Following launch, the small satellites will be operated from Taiwan and will undergo a variety of tests expected to take approximately seven months before they begin collecting data.

Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA‘s National Weather Service (NWS), explained, “COSMIC-2 will gather information about the vertical temperature and humidity of the atmosphere in the tropics, which hold most of the moisture that drives global weather patterns. The high quality and large number of observations from the COSMIC-2 data stream will improve the accuracy of our weather forecast model outputs for our national and global areas of responsibility.”

The six satellites will use a new technique known as radio occultation to measure the bending of signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) as those signals pass through Earth’s atmosphere. Studying bent signals provides scientists with important information about the atmosphere’s pressure, temperature, and moisture level, which will lead to better weather forecasting.

Meet COSMIC-2 - YouTube

Video courtesy of NOAA SciJinks

The post NOAA to launch six weather satellites later this month appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

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