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SpaceX supply ship completes journey to space station – Spaceflight Now

ESA astronaut Homas Pesquet tweeted this image of the Dragon spacecraft hovering just below the space station Thursday. Credit: Thomas Pesquet/ESA/NASA

Running a day late after aborting a rendezvous to resolve a navigation glitch, SpaceXs Dragon cargo craft made a smooth final approach to the International Space Station on Thursday, floating in range of the research labs robot arm for capture to deliver 2.7 tons of supplies and research experiments.

The Dragon spacecraft took four days to travel to the complex after blasting off from the Kennedy Space Centers launch pad 39A on Sunday, hauling food rations, space station repair equipment, and science investigations designed to monitor Earths ozone layer, study lightning and test out new automated navigation tools for a future satellite servicing mission.

The 23-foot-long (7-meter) Dragon supply ship approached the space station from below, pausing at predetermined hold points to allow for status checks by ground controllers. Mission control centers in Houston and at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, gave a green light for the spacecraft to move to a capture box around 10 meters, or 33 feet, beneath the outpost.

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet unlimbered the space stations Canadian-built robotic arm to grapple the Dragon cargo carrier at 5:44 a.m. EST (1044 GMT), a few minutes earlier than projected in Thursdays timeline.

Capture of the SpaceX-owned supply vessel occurred as the space station sailed over the northwest coast of Australia.

Looks like weve got a great capture, radioed space station commander Shane Kimbrough, who assisted Pesquet. Thomas did a great job flying it.

Great job with Dragon capture, and sorry about the delays, responded astronaut Mike Hopkins from mission control in Houston. Now the real work starts.

The mission delivered a record payload of scientific hardware for a SpaceX resupply mission, a manifest that includes 40 mice researchers will study to learn about bone healing in microgravity, a field that might have applications for victims with catastrophic bone injuries and patients with osteoporosis.

Were trying to understand what happens in the body as the bones start healing, said Rasha Hammamieh, the rodent research projects chief scientist from the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research.

The military is co-sponsoring the bone health experiment, with an eye toward learning lessons that could help injured soldiers.

Up in space, you lose bone, said Melissa Kacena, co-investigator for the bone experiment and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, anatomy and cell biology, and biomedical engineering at Indiana University. In fact, astronauts lose about 1 to 3 percent of their bone density in a month. Someone with advanced osteoporosis loses closer to 1 percent per year.

Kacena added that scientists want to test drugs on rodents that might be able to rebuild your bone systematically, so it could have applications not only for bone healing, but also for osteoporosis.

Astronauts on the space station will euthanize the mice and return them to Earth for comparison with a control group that remained on the ground.

Bacterial and stem cell researchers also have a stake in the mission.

We are excited to put MRSA, which is a superbug, on the International Space Station and investigate the effects of microgravity on the growth and mutation patterns of these bugs, said Anita Goel, chairman and science director of Nanobiosym, which developed the experiment with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

I have this hypothesis that microgravity will accelerate the mutation patterns. If we can use microgravity as an accelerator to fast forward and get a sneak preview of what these mutations will look like, then we can esssentially build smarter drugs back on Earth.

The stations robotic arm placed the Dragon spacecraft on the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module a few hours later, and bolts drove closed to create a firm connection. Station astronauts planned to verify no leaks between the station and Dragon spacecraft, then open hatches leading into the supply ship later Thursday to begin unloading time-sensitive specimens and research payloads.

Dragon has now officially arrived at ISS, Pesquet said. Were very happy, indeed, to have it on-board and very much looking forward to the goodies, and the tons of science of cargo it carries.

Thursdays capture marked the 10th time a Dragon spaceship has reached the space station, counting a demonstration flight in 2012.

The Dragon spacecraft automatically aborted an attempted rendezvous Wednesday due to an incorrect value in the capsules relative GPS navigation system. SpaceX engineers fixed the problem in time for another approach Thursday.

While astronauts unpack Dragons pressurized cabin, the stations robotic arm will pull two research experiment platforms and a mounting base out of the ships external payload bay for placement on the outposts huge structural truss.

One of the payloads is NASAs $92 million Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment 3, or SAGE 3, an ozone monitor that comes with a separate ESA-built hexapod mounting plate designed to point the instrument at Earths limb, or horizon, at sunset and moonset.

The sunlight and moonlight passing through the layers of the upper atmosphere will help tell scientists about the condition of the ozone layer and allow researchers to track pollutants and particles suspended high above Earth.

SAGE 3, developed by NASAs Langley Research Center in Virginia, is the latest in a series of ozone measurement sensors developed by NASA since 1979. Previous space missions studying ozone showed a decline in the distribution of the gas over Earths poles, and researchers tied the ozone depletion to chlorofluorocarbon, a chemical used in cleaning agents, refrigeration and air conditioning.

An international treaty called the Montreal Protocol that went into force in 1989 banned chlorofluorocarbons, and scientists have observed the depletion stop and watched the ozone layer begin to recover.

How does SAGE 3 fit into that? Were going to make measurements from the space station that show the recovery is on track, said Michael Cisewski, SAGE 3 project manager at NASA. I think that, from a science perspective, it doesnt get any better than that.

SAGE 3 will also measure other important stratospheric gases and atmospheric aerosols, which are components of pollution that also impact the radiation balance of our planet, said Michael Freilich, director of NASAs Earth science division.

The other experiment package carried inside the Dragon capsules external bay is sponsored by the U.S. militarys Space Test Program, hosting more than a dozen investigations for NASA and the Defense Department.

Among STP-H5s investigations are NASAs Raven autonomous space navigation demonstration designed to support future satellite servicing missions and NASAs Lightning Imaging Sensor.

The Raven payload is made up of three sensors optical, infrared and laser trackers to autonomously follow visiting cargo vessels arriving and departing from the space station.

Benjamin Reed, deputy director of NASAs satellite servicing program at Goddard Space Flight Center, called Raven a three-eyed instrument.

The Raven module will be observing visiting vehicles as they approach in all three wavelengths, Reed said. We will be generating range, bearing and pose estimates of those visiting vehicles on-board with sophisticated algorithms and on-board processing, based on the input that the sensors are receiving.

Raven is a follow-up to a NASA experiment that tried out satellite refueling techniques using a boilerplate test panel outside the space station.

The satellite servicing demonstrations will refine the technologies needed for future robotic missions to refuel, refurbish, upgrade and reposition satellites, beginning with NASAs Restore-L spacecraft in development for launch in 2020 to gas up the aging Landsat 7 environmental observatory in orbit.

Raven will try out the navigation equipment needed for Restore-L, and missions like it, to approach another object in orbit without any input from the ground and latch on to it, even if the target was never designed for a docking.

Landsat 7 was launched in 1999 before any such refueling mission was ever proposed, so it is not equipped with markings or a docking port.

These technologies are quite difficult, and that is why NASA is taking the lead, pushing the envelope, (and) doing the hard work first, Reed said. Once we have developed it on missions like Raven, we will then transfer that technology to U.S. industry that is interested in taking this on commercially.

The Lightning Imaging Sensor, managed by NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will take pictures and log lightning strikes from the space stations perch nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth.

Based on a spare camera made for the U.S.-Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the instrument cost $7 million to refurbish and will detect lightning day and night in a belt between 56 degrees north and south latitude.

Lightning actually occurs somewhere on Earth some 45 times every single second, Freilich said. Understanding the processes which cause lighting and the connections between lightning and subsequent severe weather events like convective storms and tornadoes are keys to improving weather predictions and saving lives and property in this country and throughout the globe.

The Dragon spacecraft will remain at the space station for around 30 days, detach in late March and re-enter the atmosphere for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, bringing home blood and urine specimens, the euthanized mice and other hardware needed back on Earth.

The Dragons arrival is the first of three resupply missions going to the space station in the next month.

A Russian resupply ship launched early Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on track for an automated radar-guided docking with the station early Friday.

Meanwhile, an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo vessel is being prepared for blastoff March 19 atop an Atlas 5 booster from Cape Canaveral with another supply delivery.

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SpaceX supply ship completes journey to space station – Spaceflight Now

Watch live: Russian freighter closing in on space station – Spaceflight Now

The International Space Station is set to receive its second cargo shipment in less than 24 hours Friday with the automated linkup of a Russian Progress refueling and resupply freighter.

The Progress MS-05 spaceship is closing in to dock with the space stations Pirs module at 0834 GMT (3:34 a.m. EST) Friday, two days after blasting off from Kazakhstan on top of a Soyuz rocket.

The radar-guided docking should be completed by the Progress cargo crafts on-board computer, but cosmonauts inside the space station will be standing by to take manual control if the autopilot runs into trouble.

Fridays docking will come less than a day after a commercial SpaceX-owned Dragon supply ship arrived at the space station, pulling within range of the research labs robotic arm for capture and berthing to the Harmony module on the U.S. section of the complex.

The Russian Progress spacecraft will dock with the Earth-facing Pirs module on the Russian segment, where it is slated to remain until mid-June, when it will depart and burn up in Earths atmosphere to dispose of the space stations trash, making way for the next logistics mission.

The Progress MS-05 mission, known as Progress 66P in the space stations visiting vehicle manifest, is carryingaround 5,820 pounds, or 2,640 kilograms, of cargo and propellant to replenish stocks on the space station.

About 2,903 pounds (1,317 kilograms) of the material is dry cargo spare parts, food, clothing and experiments and another 1,940 pounds (880 kilograms) is propellant for refueling of the space stations fuel tanks.

The mission will also deliver 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of fresh water and about 51 pounds (23 kilograms) of oxygen.

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Watch live: Russian freighter closing in on space station – Spaceflight Now

Commercial space cargo ship’s ride to orbit assembled for March 19 launch – Spaceflight Now

The OA-7 Cygnus launch poster. Credit: United Launch Alliance

CAPE CANAVERAL An Atlas 5 booster core and Centaur upper stage have been stacked to launch another commercial freighter with supplies and scientific research gear to the International Space Station next month.

The United Launch Alliance rocket is scheduled to fly March 19 to deploy Orbital ATKs seventh Cygnus ship for NASAs privatized cargo-delivery program.

Itll be the third time an Atlas 5 has launched a Cygnus carrying its maximum load of cargo amounting to about 7,700 pounds.

Preparations at Cape Canaverals Vertical Integration Facility began yesterday when the first stage was erected aboard the mobile launch platform. The pre-stacked interstage, Centaur and boattail assembly was hoisted into place this morning to complete the basic buildup of the Atlas 5.

The rocket will be powered on and fully tested in the next two weeks to verify all systems are functioning properly. The encapsulated Cygnus will be delivered to the assembly building and attached in early March.

The 194-foot-tall rocket will be rolled out to the Complex 41 launch pad on March 17.

The Cygnus was loaded with its initial complement of cargo over the last 10 days at Kennedy Space Centers Space Station Processing Facility. The cylindrical modules hatch was then closed before the vessel was turned vertically and mated to its propulsion tug on Valentines Day.

Next, the craft will be fueled at the nearby Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility and the hatchway reopened to allow the insertion of late-load cargo.

The spacecraft will weigh nearly 16,000 pounds at launch.

Cygnus will be the third resupply ship scheduled to visit the station in a one-month period, a flurry of flights by its commercial counterpart SpaceX, a Russian Progress craft and then the Cygnus.

The Atlas 5s launch on March 19 is targeted for 10:56 p.m. EDT (0256 GMT), the opening of a half-hour available window.

Known as Orbital ATKs OA-7 mission, the Cygnus is scheduled to make a March 23 rendezvous with the International Space Station and be grabbed by the 58-foot-long Canadarm2. It will be attached to the stations Unity module for a 90-day stay.

See earlier OA-7 Cygnus coverage.

Our Atlas archive.

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Commercial space cargo ship’s ride to orbit assembled for March 19 launch – Spaceflight Now

CRS-10 Dragon making second rendezvous and berthing attempt with Station – NASASpaceflight.com

February 23, 2017 by Chris Gebhardt

After lifting off from historic LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center, FL, on Sunday morning, SpaceXs Dragon capsule for the SpX-10/CRS-10 mission is making a second approach to the International Space Station during rendezvous and berthing operations following an abort on Wednesday. The mission is delivering thousands of pounds of supplies, hardware, food, and experiments to the ISS.

Launch and quick-look pad 39A condition:

Since launch on Sunday morning from the Kennedy Space Center, Dragon had enjoyed an issue-free ride to the International Space Station (ISS) ahead of an abort just hours prior to capture, blamed on a relative GPS hardware issue, on Wednesday. The issue was fixed to allow for a second arrival attempt on Thursday.

Cruising to orbit on her Falcon 9 first and second stages, the SpX-10 Dragon spacecraft had slipped into her preliminary orbit without issue.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 first stage successfully flew itself backto the Cape Canaveral Air Force Stations Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) for the third landing of a SpaceX rocket on land.

In the immediate hours after liftoff, teams performed a quick assessment of Launch Complex 39A, starting the process of documentation of all elements of the pad damaged during Sundays launch.

Damage to the launch pad is always expected following the liftoff of a rocket generating over a million pounds of thrust.

However, the Falcon 9s ~1.71 million pounds of thrust is relatively nothing compared to the ~7 million pounds of thrust LC-39A endured during its days with the Space Shuttle program, and SpaceX officials in the post-launch news conference were confident that only cosmetic damage would be present at LC-39A.

Accordingly, the quick look condition of the pad on Sunday afternoon noted that the launch complex appeared to be in excellent condition.

With the U.S. federal holiday on Monday, teams began a more thorough and extensive inspection on Tuesday of the launch pads systems and support services an inspection that will reveal just how much work and time it will take to refurbish the historic pad ahead of the currently planned albeit unlikely for the 28 February launch of the Echostar XXIII mission.

Rendezvous and berthing:

Following orbit insertion, Dragon performed a series of trajectory adjustment burns over the capsules three-day chase with the orbital outpost to properly align itself 6 km from the Station on Wednesday morning for final approach operations.

Following approval from NASA, SpaceX controllers commanded Dragon to begin its final approach sequence with the HA4 Approach Initiation burn at 03:16:00 EST at which time the ISS crew began actively monitoring the spacecraft.

Notably, this was deemed to have occurred 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

This was a potential sign of a problem, as Dragon then opted to abort her approach as a bad value in an ISS State Vector and a relative GPS error was noted by her flight computer.

The ability for Dragon to maintain proper alignment with the ISS is provided by the Relative Navigation System which was developed by SpaceX and debuted on CRS-3 on 20 April 2014.

The spacecraft was 1.2 km from the Station when the abort was called.

Dragons abort corridor saw her move into a racetrack around the Station, allowing for a second attempt to take place in 24 hours.

With the Thursday attempt going to plan, a series of maneuvers started with the 7-second HA4 burn that changed Dragons relative velocity to the ISS by 0.3 m/s.

This was followed by the HA4-MC1 and the HA4-MC2 burns designed to keep Dragon properly aligned with her targeted 350 m hold point.

Once Dragon arrived at the 350 m hold point she fired her thrusters to hold relative position with the Station at which time controllers at SpaceXs Mission Control Center (MCC-X) in Hawthorne, CA, commanded Dragon to perform a 180 degree Yaw maneuver to place the craft into the proper orientation for grapple at the end of the approach sequence.

After the yaw maneuver, MCC-X and MCC Houston (MCC-H) controllers confirmed the health of Dragons systems, after which the spacecraft departed the 350 m hold point.

The next hold point for Dragon was at 250 m below the ISS, where controllers once again confirmed the health of Dragons systems as well as the crafts orientation before giving a go to press ahead toward capture.

At any point during this phase of the approach sequence at a hold point or otherwise ground controllers, as well as the Station crew, also had the ability to manually abort Dragons approach through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Ultra High-Frequency Communication Unit (CUCU) if an off-nominal condition presents itself.

For the rendezvous, once a go to proceed is given, Dragon left the 250 m hold point and arrived at the 30 m hold point.

Once here, teams will perform final assessments of Dragons readiness to close to the capture point 10 m below the ISS.

Under the ideal plan, Dragon will depart the 30 m hold point and arrive atthe 10 m Capture Point (CP).

Once Dragon arrives at the CP, ISS Commander Shame Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet working in the Robotic Work Station in the Cupola lab will extend the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) arm toward Dragons grapple fixture.

After receiving a Go for Capture from Houston, Kimbrough and Pesquet will use the SSRMSs camera on the Latching End Effector (as overviewed in a detailed presentation available in L2) to precisely move the SSRMS to grapple posture.

At this point, Kimbrough and Pesquet will inhibit the Stations thrusters and Dragon will be commanded to free drift mode.

Kimbrough and Pesquet will then move the SSRMS over the Dragons grapple fixture pin and trigger the capture sequence.

Assuming a nominal, prime timeline, capture is expected at 06:00EST (11:00 UTC).

The backup capture window, should something preclude capture in the prime window, opens at 07:03:22 EST and closes at 08:20:08 EST.

After capture, a series of initial post-grapple checkouts will occur before Kimbrough and Pesquet carefully translates Dragon to its pre-install position 3.5 m away from Node-2 Harmonys nadir port.

Once at the pre-install position, Station crewmembers will take camcorder and photographic footage of Dragon for post-launch and rendezvous engineering evaluation.

Kimbrough and Pesquet will then move Dragon to 1.5 m from Node-2, at which point the ISS crew will wait for the final go for berthing call to move Dragon the rest of the way into the Common Berthing Module interface to begin securing the spacecraft to the Station.

Under the current plan, the CRS-10 Dragon will remain berthed to the ISS until late March, at which point it will reenter Earths atmosphere and splashdown for recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

The next cargo resupply mission set to dock to the ISS is the Progress MS-05 spacecraft which launched just hours ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is scheduled to dock on Friday morning at 08:34 UTC (03:34 EST).

The next U.S.-launching resupply mission to the Station is Orbital ATKs OA-7 Cygnus mission on 20 March.

(Images: SpaceX; NASA)

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CRS-10 Dragon making second rendezvous and berthing attempt with Station – NASASpaceflight.com

Soyuz-U completes swan song with launch of Progress MS-05 – SpaceFlight Insider

Derek Richardson

February 22nd, 2017

Soyuz-U launch vehicle together with the cargo transport spacecraft Progress MS-05. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Lifting off under clear, blue skies at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Soyuz-U rocket completed its final launch by sending the Russian Progress MS-05 cargo spacecraft toward the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff took place at 12:58 a.m. EST (05:58 GMT) Feb. 22, 2017, from launch site 1/5, also known as Gagarins Startthe same launch pad that sent the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space.

Progress MS-05 is moved to the horizontal position before being encapsulated inside the Soyuz-U fairing. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

After a flawless nine-minute flight into space, Progress MS-05, also called Progress 66P, separated successfully from the second stage of the storied Soyuz-U. Itwill spend two days, about 34 orbits, catching up with the ISS. Docking with the Pirs module is expected at around 3:34 a.m. EST (08:34 GMT).

The cargo ship is carrying about 5,400 pounds (2,450 kilograms) of supplies, consumables, and propellant. It will stay attached to the outpost until June before departing and performing a de-orbit burn to re-enter Earths atmosphere.

This was the first successful Progress launch since the ill-fated Progress MS-04 rocket. On that flight, due to a malfunction in that Soyuz-U rockets second stage, the spacecraft failed to reach orbit.

An investigation laterdeterminedthat a failure in the RD-0110 engines oxidizer pump had caused the whole assembly to disintegrate 22 seconds before achieving orbital velocity. While an exact root cause was not determined, investigators believe the pump was destroyed from either a foreign object or an improper assembly.

The Soyuz-U, the worlds longest-serving rocket, has been flying since May 1973. Since then, it has launched 786 times, including this final flight. While its record isnt perfect, it has completed 765 of its missions successfully. Additionally, in 1979, 47 Soyuz-U rockets launched, a record for the highest launch rate for any orbital-class rocket.

It is based on the iconic R-7 rocket design. The 167.7-foot (51.1-meter) tall Soyuz-U has a core stage with four strap-on liquid-fueled boosters, and a second stage. Each booster sports a single RD-117 engine that produces 188,502 pounds (838.5 kilonewtons) of thrust.

The core has an RD-118 that produces 182,770 pounds (813 kilonewtons) of thrust. The second stage has a single RD-0110 that produces 67,000 pounds (298 kilonewtons) of thrust. All of the engine types burn liquid oxygen and kerosene.

Soyuz-U launch vehicle together with the cargo transport spacecraft Progress MS-05. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Seconds before liftoff, the core stage engine and also the four strap-on boosters ignited and throttled up to full power. Once the countdown reached zero, the launch mount released the rocket and it soared skyward, leaving behind the snow-covered Kazakh steppe where Baikonur is located.

About 20 seconds after leaving the pad, the rocket began pitching over toward its designated orbit. The boosters fell away after burning for about 118 seconds while the core stage continued to burn for nearly another three minutes.

At around 2 minutes, 39 seconds, the payload fairing jettisoned, revealing the Progress MS-05 spacecraft.

Two seconds after the first stage completed its burn, the second stages RD-0110 engine began to fire in what is known as hot staging. This means the engine ignites while the previous stage is still attached. Once ignition was confirmed, pyrotechnics between the two stages officially detached the core stage.

Using the lone RD-0110 engine, the second stage burned for another four minutes to place Progress MS-05 into a preliminary orbit. Eight minutes, 49 seconds after leaving Kazakhstan, the rocket completed its ascent. Seconds later, the spacecraft separated from therocket and deployed its solar arrays and antennas.

This completed the final chapter in the history of the Soyuz-U. It has since been replaced by the similar-looking Soyuz-2 and crew-rated Soyuz-FG rockets.

This was the 157th Progress mission since the cargo freighter design began flying in 1978. Back then, it was servicing the Salyut 6 space station. Progress MS-05 was the 68th of various models to be sent to the ISS.

Video courtesy of (Roscosmos)

Tagged: Expedition 50 International Space Station Lead Stories Progress MS-05 Roscosmos Russia Soyuz-U

Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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Soyuz-U completes swan song with launch of Progress MS-05 – SpaceFlight Insider

Spitzer discovers star system with seven orbiting Earth-sized planets – SpaceFlight Insider

Laurel Kornfeld

February 23rd, 2017

This artists concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets diameters, masses, and distances from the host star. Image & Caption Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech

A star system, approximately 40 light-years from Earth, with seven Earth-sized planets, including three in the habitable zone, has been discovered by NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope.

Named TRAPPIST-1 because it was discovered by the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, the star is an ultra-cool M-type dwarf star with eight percent the mass of our Sun and half its temperature, located in the direction of the constellation Aquarius.

NASA announced the discovery at a news conference on Wednesday, February 22, at 1 p.m. EST. Researchers who took part in the news conference, which was followed by a question and answer period, include the following:

The TRAPPIST-1 system consists of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC)

All seven planets orbit closer to the star than Mercury orbits the Sun. Their densities indicate they could all be rocky worlds while their cool temperatures indicate that under the right atmospheric conditions, all could host liquid water on their surfaces.

Being rocky and capable of harboring liquid water are two of the primary conditions necessary for life as we know it to exist.

Scientists are especially interested in the three planets located in the stars habitable zone, as they are the ones most likely to have liquid water.

Three of the planets were discovered in May 2016 by scientists in Chile using TRAPPIST. Following the discovery, several other ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatorys (ESO) Very Large Telescope, as well as NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope were trained on the system.

Spitzer not only confirmed the presence of the first two planetsbut also discovered five more orbiting the same star. The data provided by Spitzer enabled the scientists to accurately determine the planets sizes and estimate the masses of all but one.

With knowledge of their masses and sizes, the scientists were able to make decent estimates of their densities. By knowing or closely estimating a planets density, the scientists were able to gain an insight as to whether the planet is gaseous or rocky.

This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life, Zurbuchen stated during the news conference. Answering the question are we alone is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.

Four of the systems planets were observed with the Hubble Space Telescope, which found no evidence for their having the puffy, hydrogen-heavy atmospheres typical of gaseous planets.

The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets, noted Nikole Lewis, who co-led the Hubble study of the system.

Imagine standing on the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. This artists concept is one interpretation of what it could look like. Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

TRAPPIST-1s seven planets orbit so close to each other that a person standing on one of them would be able to see the disks of the others in the sky. The close orbits also mean the planets perturb one another. Their layout is more akin to that of Jupiters moons than to that of the Solar System.

Mercury orbits the Sun at a distance of 0.39 AU (astronomical units, with one AU equal to the average Earth-Sun distance: 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers). In contrast, the closest TRAPPIST-1 planet orbits its star at 0.01 AU and the furthest at 0.06 AU.

While the planets densities suggest they are rocky, the question of whether they have water will require additional observations. Some scientists think that the systems outermost planet is icy, though its mass has not yet been determined.

The TRAPPIST-1 habitable zone in comparison to the Solar System. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As an infrared telescope, Spitzer is ideal for studying this system because the star glows in infrared wavelengths. During the last quarter of 2016, Spitzer observed the system for 500 hours, monitoring transits of the planets in front of the star.

Because the planets are in such close orbits around TRAPPIST-1, some or all of them may be tidally locked, which means that they always present the same side to the star and the opposite side away from the star.

That configuration may cause extreme temperature variations that could limit the planets habitability. It could also result in extreme weather events, with strong winds blowing from one side of a planet to the other side.

Additionally, red dwarf stars, especially young ones, can experience superflares that emit high levels of radiation, which can strip away a planets atmosphere and prevent life from getting started.

However, unlike Proxima Centauri, TRAPPIST-1 is a quiet, middle-aged star.

This chart shows, on the top row, artist concepts of the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 with their orbital periods, distances from their star, radii, and masses as compared to those of Earth. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Hurt, T. Pyle (IPAC)

NASAs K2 extended Kepler exoplanet search mission is now studying the TRAPPIST-1 system while Spitzer and Hubble will conduct follow-up observations in preparation for study by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), set to launch in 2018.

The highly sensitive JWST will be capable of probing the planets atmospheres in a search for bio-signatures, as well as detecting evidence of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, carbon dioxide, and various other gases; plus, it will analyze their surface pressures and temperatures.

Another research team is constructing Speculoos, a more powerful version of TRAPPIST, which will search for planetary systems around other red dwarf stars.

Findings of the TRAPPIST-1 study have been published in the journal Nature.

Various visual simulations, including Exoplanet Surface in 360 VR, as well as additional photos and videos, and the TRAPPIST-1 system in the free, downloadable desktop app, Eyes on Exoplanets, or onmobile, TRAPPIST-1 system in 3D,can all be accessed at this website.

Video Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This 360-degree panorama depicts the surface of a newly detected planet, TRAPPIST 1-d, part of a seven-planet system some 40 light-years away. Explore this artists rendering of an alien world by moving the view using your mouse or your mobile device.

Video & Caption Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Tagged: Exoplanets Lead Stories NASA Spitzer Space Telescope TRAPPIST TRAPPIST-1

Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne Universitys Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazines guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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Spitzer discovers star system with seven orbiting Earth-sized planets – SpaceFlight Insider

PHOTOS: Spaceflight Experiment Program Students Return – GoVolsXtra

Interim Superintendent of Knox County Schools, Buzz Thomas, speaks with the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program members at Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. Bearden Middle School students involved in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program returned from their trip after watching the space launch of their science experiment to test the effectiveness of antibiotics on pink eye in space on the international space station. Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel

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PHOTOS: Spaceflight Experiment Program Students Return – GoVolsXtra

Europe’s next Sentinel land imaging satellite mated to rocket booster – Spaceflight Now

Ground crews have mounted the fully-fueled Sentinel 2B spacecraft, the next mission in Europes multibillion-dollar Copernicus Earth observation satellite fleet, on top of a Vega rocket inside a protective gantry on its launch pad in French Guiana for blastoff next month.

The satellite was encapsulated inside the Vega rockets Swiss-made composite nose shroud Feb. 15, then transferred to the Vega launch pad Feb. 18, where the four-stage booster was already assembled and awaiting the arrival of the payload.

Sentinel 2B is scheduled to lift off at 0149 GMT March 7 (8:49 p.m. EST March 6) on top of the Vega rocket, which will fly on its ninth mission since debuting in February 2012.

Next months launch will be the third Arianespace mission of the year, and the first Vega launch of 2017.

The Sentinel 2B spacecraft carries a sharp-eyed camera sensitive to 13 different nuances of color designed to paint a broad swath 180 miles (290 kilometers) wide as the satellite circles Earth in polar orbit at an altitude around 488 miles (786 kilometers) above the planet.

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Sentinel 2B follows the identical Sentinel 2A Earth observatory launched in June 2015.With two Sentinel 2 platforms in orbit, users will be able to glimpse the same location on Earth every five days.

The European Commissions Copernicus program has several lines of Sentinel satellites. While the Sentinel 2 series is devoted to land imaging roughly equivalent to the U.S. governments Landsat missions other Sentinel satellites carry radar and atmospheric sensors to monitor pollution, ice sheets, oil spills and other environmental concerns.

Sentinel 2B will be the fifth Copernicus satellite launched overall since the Sentinel deployments began in 2014.

ESA manages the satellites and launches for the Copernicus program on behalf of the European Commission, the EUs executive body.

The satellite was fueled with its supply of in-orbit maneuvering propellant before encapsulation inside the Vega rockets payload fairing, giving Sentinel 2B a launch mass around 2,500 pounds (about 1,140 kilograms).

Once hoisted into the Vega launch pads mobile gantry, the fairing and Sentinel 2B were lowered on top of the rockets fourth stage. Ground crews successfully completed functional checks of the satellite Feb. 19.

Sentinel 2B is designed for a mission of at least seven years.

The images below show fueling of Sentinel 2B, encapsulation of spacecraft inside the fairing, and its arrival at the Vega launch pad before attachment atop the 98-foot-tall (30-meter) rocket.

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Europe’s next Sentinel land imaging satellite mated to rocket booster – Spaceflight Now

Hardware Not Only Risk Factor In Human Spaceflight – Aviation Week

SpaceX reopened historic Pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center with a spectacular mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Feb. 19, forging ahead with its plans to use the leased site to launch astronauts as well. The company, which is still repairing its original East Coast launch pad after a devastating prelaunch explosion last year, managed operational risk at the new facility with cool-handed skill. [T]hat 1% chance isnt worth rolling the dice, …

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Hardware Not Only Risk Factor In Human Spaceflight – Aviation Week

UK stakes its claim on the global space market with draft spaceflight legislation – Deutsche Welle

It’s no secret the UK is keen to take a significant slice of the growing space industries pie. And on Tuesday, the government set out its plans for the future.

If brought into law, the Draft Spaceflight Bill would allow horizontal flights to the edge of space from spaceports across the UK. Scientists will be able to “conduct vital medical experiments” in zero gravity.

The draft legislation also seeks to encourage commercial space businesses and the creation of a “space launch market” in the UK. The aim is to start commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020.

British astronaut Tim Peake, who spent six months at the International Space Station in 2016, has done much to invigorate the British space community.

“With millions inspired by Tim Peake’s mission last year, and ambitious plans underway to study and explore the Solar System, our future in space is bright,” write the authors of the draft bill.

Space: the Europe that works

It is also one way for the UK to remain part of European operations. The European Space Agency (ESA), of which the UK is a member, is sometimes referred to as the Europe that works.

Some within ESA say that’s because the UK gets a better rate of return for its investments in European space activities than it thinks it does with the European Union. The ESA and the EU are separate bodies.

The UK space industry is worth about 16.5 billion euros (13.7 billion). It employs more than 38,500 people directly. The government says the UK is “a world-leader in satellite technology and services.”

And with companies like Reaction Engines it is fast being recognized as a leadinginnovator in rocket propulsion technology too.

“The UK has always prioritized the full range of scientific activities, commercial activities and using space to support the development of the economy and give value to citizens,” says David Parker, a former head of the UK Space Agency and now ESA’s head of human spaceflight. “So if you think about the weather forecast or using satellite communications in disasters, those humanitarian uses of space have always been high on the UK’s agenda. And it’s a commercially important sector of the economy.”

It’s a sentiment echoed clearly in the draft bill: “As we prepare to leave the European Union, we must ensure that the decisions we take now put the UK in a position to build a strong, resilient, well balanced economy that works for everyone.”

And that also means “capturing a portion” of global space market worth a potential 30 billion euros ($31.6 billion).

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UK stakes its claim on the global space market with draft spaceflight legislation – Deutsche Welle

Virgin Galactic continues to test LauncherOne engine – SpaceFlight Insider

Lloyd Campbell

February 21st, 2017

Visualization of LauncherOne in flight. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

Last week, Virgin Galactic continued to test the first stage engine of its air-launched LauncherOne. The NewtonThree (N3) engine recently completed a long-duration test at full thrust.

The N3 produces about 73,500 pounds (327 kilonewtons) of thrust. It ispowered by liquid kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Previous firings include a full thrust, 90-second firing in the fourth quarter of 2015 and multiple full thrust firings throughout 2016.

LauncherOnes second stage is powered by an N4 engine. It produces 5,000 pounds (22 kilonewtons) of thrust and is also powered using RP-1 and LOX. For most launches, the second stage will be ignited multiple times with a coast phase in between the burns.Combined, thesecond stage is capable of firing for almost sixminutes.

To try and minimize space debris in orbit, both LauncherOne stages will be de-orbited and will burn up in the atmosphere.

LauncherOne is an air-launch system that was originally designed to be flown to its launch altitude by the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. However, Virgin Galactic has now employed a Boeing 747-400 to be used.

Dubbed Cosmic Girl, the aircraft will take LauncherOne to an altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 meters) where it will be released. Then the two-stage launcher will take the payload the rest of the way using its rocket engines.

Visualization of Virgin Galactic 747-400 Cosmic Girl with LauncherOne under its wing. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

The swap to Cosmic Girl had two advantages: first, it freed up WhiteKnightTwo to be dedicated to the companys SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceflight vehicle program; second, it doubled the size of the payload LauncherOne could carry.

NewtonThree hot-fire engine test in October 2015. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

With the growing popularity of CubeSats and other smaller satellites among colleges, small companies, and even some government agencies, a large launch vehicle is not necessarily required anymore.

LauncherOne is designed to take those smaller payloads into orbit. Currently, it can take up to 441 pounds (200kilograms) of payload to a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and up to 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) to other low-Earth orbits.

Virgin Galactic currently has multiple contracts with different customers that will launch aboard LauncherOne including NASA, Sky and Space Global, and OneWeb Ltd.

Currently, most of those smaller payloads launch alongside bigger primary payloads on larger rockets to keep launch costs down. However, that limits their destinations in orbit as they have to take the flight path that the primary payload is taking.

With a low-cost launcher like LauncherOne, the customer can get its payload to its preferred orbit and at a reasonable cost. Virgin Galactic expects to take payloads to SSOfor under $10 million.

As an added benefit, the frequency of launches using this system is expected to be much higher than a traditional launcher due to the lack of maintenanceandpreparation to a launch pad between flights.

Additionally, weather concerns are much less since the aircraft carrying the launch vehicle can go above, or around, weather systems that would keep traditional launch vehicles grounded.

LauncherOne is expected to start carrying payloads into orbit as early as 2018.

Video Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

Tagged: LauncherOne Lead Stories NewtonThree Virgin Galactic

Lloyd Campbells first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASAs Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then hes attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agencys new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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Virgin Galactic continues to test LauncherOne engine – SpaceFlight Insider

Soyuz booster rolled out to snowy Baikonur launch pad – Spaceflight Now

A Soyuz rocket and Progress supply ship packed with nearly 3 tons of cargo, provisions and fuel for the International Space Station rolled out to a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday.

The Progress MS-05 cargo freighter is set for liftoff Wednesday at 0558:33 GMT (12:58:33 a.m. EST; 11:58:33 a.m. Baikonur time) on a two-day trip to the space station.

The launch will be the last mission of the Soyuz-U version of Russias most-flown rocket. The Soyuz-U was a workhorse for the Russian space program, launching nearly 800 times with military spy satellites, cosmonaut crews and space station resupply missions to a series of Russian orbital outposts since 1973.

Newer versions of the expendable Soyuz booster are now flying with upgraded engines.

Wednesdays launch will be the first Soyuz-U flight, and the first Progress cargo launch, since a rocket failure doomed a Russian resupply mission Dec. 1 on the way to the space station.

Russian investigators believe foreign object debris or a manufacturing defect in the third stages RD-0110 engine led the failure, which caused the Progress MS-04 spaceship to crash in Siberia downrange from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The most likely cause of the contingency was the third stage liquid oxygen tank opening as a result of exposure of (RD-0110) engine destruction elements that occurred (as a) result of fire, and further destruction of the oxidizer compound pump, the Russian space agency, or Roscosmos, said in a Jan. 11 statement.

The oxidizer pump fire could have been caused by the introduction of foreign object debris into the pump cavity, or a violation of engine assembly procedures, Roscosmos said.

Engineers replaced the third stage RD-0110 engine on the Soyuz-U booster flying Wednesday with a powerplant from a different manufacturing batch after the inquiry discovered some engines produced by the same contractor were made with substandard alloys.

The automated Progress MS-05 cargo freighter, known as Progress 66P in the space stations visiting vehicle manifest, will reach orbit around 8 minutes, 49 seconds, after liftoff Wednesday. Docking with the International Space Stations Pirs module is set for 0834 GMT (3:34 a.m. EST) Friday.

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Soyuz booster rolled out to snowy Baikonur launch pad – Spaceflight Now

U of Guelph grad student sets his sights on space flight – GuelphMercury.com


GuelphMercury.com
U of Guelph grad student sets his sights on space flight
GuelphMercury.com
There were no secured flights for those new recruits, but the process was necessary to augment the astronaut corps in anticipation of space flights, she said. The two astronauts selected in 2009 have yet to travel to space. But Eyssen said space

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U of Guelph grad student sets his sights on space flight – GuelphMercury.com

NOAA’s GOES-16 weather satellite to showcase its lightning detection capabilities – SpaceFlight Insider

Tomasz Nowakowski

February 21st, 2017

Artists rendering of the GOES-16 satellite in orbit. Image Credit: NOAA

NOAAs new highly advanced GOES-16 (formerly known as GOES-R) weather satellite, which has just completed its third month in space, is expected to provide crucial data necessary to detect the presence of lightning earlier and better than before. The satellites Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instrument will soon deliver first data essential for forecasting intensifying storms and severe weather events.

On February 28, the first light images and data will be available from NOAA GOES-16s GLM instrument, Connie Barclay of NOAA told Astrowatch.net.

This image shows the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) as it prepares to undergo vibration testing, which simulates the stresses experienced during launch. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Corporation

GLM will collect information such as the frequency, location, and extent of lightning discharges to improve the detection of thunderstorms and tropical cyclones that are strengthening. The instrument is sensitive to the in-cloud lightning that is most dominant in severe thunderstorms and provides nearly uniform total lightning coverage over the region of interest.

GLMs ability to capture trends in total lightning is critical for forecasters, which will allow them to focus on severe storms as they develop much earlier than they can now, and before the storms produce damaging winds, hail, or even tornadoes, Barclay said.

Built by Lockheed Martin, GLM is a single-channel, near-infrared optical transient detector that can detect the momentary changes in an optical scene, indicating the presence of lightning. It has a telescopic CCD camera sensitive to 777.4 nm light with a spatial resolution of five miles / eight kilometers (at nadir) to 8.7 miles / 14 kilometers (at theedge of thefield of view), capturing 500 frames per second.

The instrument has great potential to increase lead time for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings and reduce false alarm rates. It is also expected to provide early warning of lightning ground strike hazards and improve our detection of heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Moreover, it will allow monitoring the intensity change of tropical cyclones, which is often accompanied by increased lightning activity.

The GLM will be the first-ever lightning mapper instrument operated in a geostationary orbit, Barclay noted.

She added that the importance of this tool is undeniable when you take lightning statistics into account.

Lightning kills an average of 49 people in the U.S. each year and lightning strikes the U.S. an average of 25 million times each year, Barclay told Astrowatch.net.

NOAA plans to use data from the GLM instrument to produce a long-term database to track decadal changes in lightning activity. This database could be of high importance for long-term climate variability studies.

GOES-16 was launched into space on Nov. 19, 2016, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida atop an Atlas V booster. The spacecraft is part of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Currently, GOES-16 is situated in orbit 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth. On Jan. 23, 2017, NOAA released first images of our planet acquired by this satellite.

After undergoing a checkout and validation of its six instruments, GOES-16 will become operational in November 2017, a year after launching. In general, the new spacecraft is expected to boost the nations weather observation network and NOAAs prediction capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches, and warnings.

Tagged: GOES-16 GOES-R NOAA The Range

Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski’s generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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NOAA’s GOES-16 weather satellite to showcase its lightning detection capabilities – SpaceFlight Insider

Photos: Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from pad 39A, then lands nearby – Spaceflight Now

SpaceXs Falcon 9 rocket took off Sunday for the first time from launch pad 39A, a historic facility under lease from NASA, and delivered to orbit an uncrewed supply ship heading for the International Space Station.

The first stage booster returned to a landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station 9 miles (15 kilometers) to the south of pad 39A the first such recovery on land in daylight.

Liftoff occurred at 9:39 a.m. EST (1439 GMT) from pad 39A, a day after SpaceX called a last-minute abort to examine and replace a suspect actuator in the upper stage engine.

Around two-and-a-half minutes later, the Falcon 9s first stage engines switched off, and the second stages single Merlin engine ignited to propel the missions cargo craft payload into orbit. Cold-gas nitrogen thrusters on the first stage booster re-oriented the vehicle to fly tail first, then a subset of its main engines fired in succession three times to guide the rocket back to Earth at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral.

The first stages center engine conducted the final landing burn as four legs deployed from the base of the booster for touchdown. It was the eighth time SpaceX has recovered a rocket stage, the third time the booster has returned to land at Cape Canaveral, and the first such descent over land in daylight.

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These photos were released by SpaceX late Sunday and early Monday.

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Photos: Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from pad 39A, then lands nearby – Spaceflight Now

After multiple delays, Progress MS-05 set for launch – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

February 20th, 2017

The final Soyuz-U rocket is rolled out to the launch pad. The payload, Progress MS-05, will launch to space on Feb. 22, 2017, and spend two days catching up to the International Space Station to dock. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Russias state-run corporation for space activities, Roscosmos, is in the final stages of preparingto launch the Progress MS-05 cargo resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

Progress 66P also known as ProgressMS-05 will launch at 12:58 a.m. EST (05:58 GMT) Feb. 22, 2017, atop the final Soyuz-U rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress MS-05 before being encapsulated in the Soyuz-U fairing. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Russias Progress spacecraft is an uncrewed variant of the crewed Soyuz vehicleand is capable of fully automated flight and docking with the Russian segment of the ISS.

Progress MS-05 will be carrying 5,401pounds (2,450 kilograms) of supplies and consumablesto the orbiting outpost, including 1,554 pounds (705 kilograms) of propellant.

As with previous Progress missions, MS-05 will embark on a two-day, 34-orbit rendezvous profile with the space station and will likely spend about fourmonths attached to the outpost. Docking with the Pirs module is expected to take place at 3:34 a.m. EST (8:34 GMT) Feb. 24.

The venerable Soyuz-U rocket was tapped to launch the Progress MS-05. The U-variant of the Soyuz line of vehicles has had a long career, notching 764 successful launches over its nearly 44 years of active life.

Not only has the Soyuz-U been in service longer than any other orbital-class rocket, but also it holds the world record for thehighest launch rate with 47 flights in 1979. However, the Russian space agency classifiedthe Soyuz-U as obsolete in April 2015 in favor of the more modern Soyuz-2.

The Soyuz-U utilizes an older analog flight control system that requires the rocket to be mounted on a rotating platform so that the vehicle could be aimed sinceit was incapable of performing a roll maneuver.

Like all Russian vehicles based on the iconic R-7 design, the Soyuz-U consists of a core stage with four strap-on liquid-fueled boosters. According to legacy information, each booster is outfitted with anRD-117 liquid oxygen and kerosene-fueled (kerolox) engine, providing 188,502pounds (838.5 kilonewtons) of sea-level thrust.

The core stage utilizes a single RD-118 engine, providing 182,770pounds (813 kilonewtons) of liftoff thrust. Like its RD-117 counterpart, it has four combustion chambers fed by a single turbopump assembly.

The loss of Progress MS-04 has been attributed to a failure of the liquid oxygen turbopump in the RD-0110 engine, seen mounted in the second stage in this file photo. Photo credit: Roscosmos

The primary difference between the two engine models is the amount of control authority the engines provide via their integrated vernier thrusters: the side boosters only have a pair of verniers, whereas the core needs a full range of attitude control and has fourverniers.

The second stage, the Blok-I, is powered by a single RD-0110 engine, which provides 67,000 pounds (298 kilonewtons) of vacuum thrust. Like much of the stable of Russian spaceflight components, the RD-0110 has a long history. The RD-0110 was initially introduced in 1965and is still in production.

Progress MS-05 was initially targeted to launch in early February 2017. However, it has seen multiple delays related to the failure of the launch of its predecessor Progress MS-04.

An investigation determined a failure in the RD-0110s oxidizer pump caused the assembly to fail and disintegrate.The breakup of the engine caused Progress MS-04 to separate from the stage 22 seconds early.

Failing to achieve orbital velocity, the resupply craft subsequently re-entered the atmosphere, with remnants crashing to the ground in Siberia.

The investigation could not determine a root cause for the failure, though the investigative panel believes the pump was destroyed either from a foreign contaminant or from animproper assembly at the factory.

In a bid to prevent a recurrence of this issue on Progress MS-05, the launch was delayed more than two weeks so that an engine from a different production run could be installed in the Blok-I stage.

The launch of Progress MS-05 will mark the 786th, and final, flight of the Soyuz-U.

Video courtesy of Roscosmos

Tagged: Expedition 50 International Space Station Lead Stories Progress MS-05 Roscosmos Russia Soyuz-U

Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field. He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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After multiple delays, Progress MS-05 set for launch – SpaceFlight Insider

Cassini’s first flyby of Enceladus led to discovery of its subsurface ocean – SpaceFlight Insider

Laurel Kornfeld

February 21st, 2017

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturns moon Enceladus. Cassinis first hint of this plume came during the spacecrafts first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

An unexpected finding by NASAs Cassini spacecraftduring itsfirst flyby of Saturns moon Enceladushas led to the discovery of its subsurface ocean, which could, possibly, host microbial life.

After arriving at Saturn in 2004, Cassini made its first pass by Saturns sixth largest moon on February 17, 2005. The flyby was part of the spacecrafts detailed study of the planets icy moons.

Illustration showing the bending of Saturns magnetic field near Enceladus that was detected by Cassinis magnetometer. (Click to enlarge) Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Cassini flew by Enceladus, the spacecrafts magnetometer, which measures the magnetic field in the area, detected an anomaly, suggesting that the 157-mile (252-kilometer) moon had a thin atmosphere.

Orbiting in the middle of Saturns faint E ring, Enceladus is the Solar Systems most reflective object, but scientists attributed this brightness to the emission of ice dust from its surface and believed the small moon to be an inactive world.

However, inexplicably, Saturns magnetic field was being perturbed above Enceladuss south pole.

Because of the unusual findings, Cassini flew even closer to the small moon just several weeks later, on March 9, 2005, to obtain a better look.

According to Cassini Magnetometer Principal Investigator Michelle Dougherty, [] the atmospheric signature that we were seeing was focused at the south pole. It was almost like there was a cometary plume of water vapor coming off from the south pole.

The fact that Enceladus resembled a comet actively emitting gases led scientists to speculate its atmosphere is somehow replenishing these gases.

Some scientists excitedly speculated the south polar plume came from jets, but members of Cassinis imaging team were skeptical and wanted to make another pass at the small moon before confirming anything.

That led to a third flyby on July 14, 2005, this time coming within just 175 kilometers of Enceladuss surface, which put an end to the skepticism.

Tiger Stripes on Enceladus. Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team / SSI / JPL / ESA / NASA

From that vantage point, the mission team was able to see geysers of water vapor and water ice particles streaming out of Enceladus south pole.

Cassinis science instruments studied the region, imaging the now-famous cracks and tiger stripes, along with heat being emitted from the stripes.

These discoveries dramatically altered mission plans. Enceladus was so exciting that, instead of just three close flybys planned for our four-year primary mission, we added 20 more, including seven that went right through the geysers at the south pole, noted Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker.

Subsequent flybys confirmed that the plumes are emitting organic material in addition to dust, water vapor, volatile gases, salts, and silica.

The surprising magnetometer reading led us to the liquid water ocean underneath Enceladus icy crust, Spilker emphasized.

From Cassinis extensive study of this small world, scientists know that an underground ocean is present and suspect Enceladuss interior is being heated by tidal forces from Saturn, meaning it could potentially support microbial life.

That has altered the way we think about where life might be found in our own Solar System, and in the worlds beyond, she added.

Microbial life has been found in underwater hydrothermal vents on Earth and could, possibly, exist in such vents on the floor of Enceladuss global salty subsurface ocean.

Enceladus joins a growing list of ocean worlds that could potentially harbor such life, including Jupiters moon Europa, fellow Saturn moon Titan, Neptunes moon Triton, and even possibly dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto.

Video Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Tagged: Cassini Enceladus Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA Saturn The Range

Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne Universitys Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazines guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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Cassini’s first flyby of Enceladus led to discovery of its subsurface ocean – SpaceFlight Insider

Historic launch pad back in service with thundering blastoff by SpaceX – Spaceflight Now

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX sent a cargo capsule with nearly 5,500 pounds of experiments and supplies on a three-day trip to the International Space Station on Sunday, firing the automated spaceship through low-hanging clouds and into orbit from the same launch pad where Apollo astronauts began voyages to the moon.

A kerosene-fueled 213-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket powered the cargo freighter into space, soaring on a northeasterly course from launch pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center at 9:39 a.m. EST (1439 GMT) atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

A few minutes later, the first stage booster nailed an on-target landing back at Cape Canaveral in the first such return to the launch base in daylight.

The launch the first SpaceX has conducted from pad 39A was timed for the Dragon cargo carrier align its course with the orbital path of the space station.

The historic launch complex, situated about a half-mile (750 meters) from the Atlantic Ocean, was the departure point for 94 missions before Sunday.

Originally constructed in the 1960s for the Apollo moon program, pad 39A hosted 12 Saturn 5 blastoffs on test flights, all of the moon landing missions and the uncrewed launch of NASAs Skylab space station from 1967 through 1973.

NASAs fleet of space shuttles launched from the pad 82 times, including the first and last flights of the program in 1981 and 2011.

The launch pad has remained dormant since the last shuttle mission took off July 8, 2011, and SpaceX signed a 20-year lease to take over the facility as a commercially-operated launch complex in 2014.

It was really awesome to see 39A roar back to life for the first time since the shuttle era, and it was extremely special that this first launch off of 39A was a Dragon mission for NASA heading to the space station, said Jessica Jensen, a Dragon mission manager who spoke with reporters after Sundays launch.

NASA decided it no longer needed pad 39A after the shuttles retirement. Nearby launch pad 39B, previously built for Apollo and shuttle flights, will be home to NASAs Space Launch System, a government-owned heavy-lift rocket that will launch astronaut crews on deep space expeditions.

This pad would have just sat here and rusted away in the salt air had we not had the use agreement with SpaceX to continue to enable commercial operations for our nation, said Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center.

The concrete foundation of pad 39A dates back to the Apollo era of the 1960s, while the 347-foot-tall (106-meter) fixed service structure and lightning tower were emplaced before the first shuttle launch.

It gives me a little bit of chills when I walk out there and see stuff thats left over from Apollo, said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceXs vice president of flight reliability.

Since SpaceX took over, changes to pad 39A have included the construction of the new rocket hangar outside the south gate to the facility, where space shuttles and Saturn 5 moon rockets arrived on top of tracked crawler-transporters after rollout from the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building.

The hangar can accommodate five Falcon 9 rocket cores at a time, according to SpaceX.

Weve taken good care of this pad during the refurbishment and the rebuild, said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceXs president, in remarks to reporters at the launch site Friday. We saved precious things that needed to be saved. Weve upgraded things to make them usable in the contemporary era. Its hard to express how excited I am to be here, just two-and-a-half years after we got the lease.

SpaceX sped the pad to completion after a rocket explosion damaged the companys other Cape Canaveral launch facility Complex 40 a few miles to the south and grounded Falcon 9 flights until the booster returned to service last month in a mission from California.

Other additions at the pad include the installation of RP-1 kerosene fuel tanks and the construction of the massive transporter-erector, which is sized to accommodate SpaceXs powerful triple-body Falcon Heavy rocket when it debuts later this year.

An access arm to allow astronauts to board SpaceXs Crew Dragon capsule, a human-rated ship in development to launch people as soon as next year, will be added to pad 39A in the coming months.

SpaceX tested many of the launch pads new parts Feb. 12 during a countdown rehearsal in which the Falcon 9 rocket was fueled before a hold-down engine firing.

Engineers returned the two-stage launcher to SpaceXs hangar, added the Dragon spacecraft, then rolled the fully-assembled vehicle back to the pad Thursday for further tests and the loading of final cargo.

But some features of the launch pad like the quick partial retraction of the transporter-erector strongback umbilical tower at liftoff were not been exercised until Sunday.

This is a huge deal for us, Jensen said. We completely modernized the way the pad is built, so yeah, its super exciting, and youre always a little bit nervous. Weve run tons of tests to ensure that the hold-downs released properly, and the strongback throws back in a different way than it used to at pad 40.

Weve had tons of ground tests, but weve never mated an actual rocket with a payload on top for that, she added. So to watch it happen for the first time was just amazing.

The missions takeoff was delayed from Saturday after SpaceX managers ordered a last-minute abort to investigate unexpected readings from the Falcon 9 upper stage engines backup steering mechanism.

Ground crews lowered the rocket at pad 39A overnight to replace parts of a redundant actuator on the second stages Merlin engine thrust vector control system, which directs the powerplants thrust to point the launcher in the right direction.

The rocket was raised upright again around six hours before launch, and the SpaceX launch team, working from a control center around 13 miles (21 kilometers) to the south, oversaw filling of the Falcon 9 with super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants in the final hour of the countdown.

Scattered rain showers around the Kennedy Space Center threatened to hold up the launch, but all weather criteria toggled green in time for the days instantaneous launch opportunity.

Eight minutes after it blasted off, the Falcon 9s first stage booster made a dramatic vertical landing at a recovery site around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of pad 39A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the first time a SpaceX rocket has touched down on land in daylight.

An overcast deck of clouds prohibited ideal viewing of the launch and return, but the rockets nine Merlin engines sent a wave of window-rattling sound across the spaceport on the trip up, and twin sonic booms heralded the boosters final descent as it became visible to spectators just before touchdown.

SpaceX plans to inspect the landed rocket and prepare it for another flight some time in the future. The company now has eight flown first stage boosters in its inventory, recovered after landings at Cape Canaveral and at sea. Seven of those are considered flight-worthy, according to Jensen.

The SES 10 satellite, a commercial broadcasting spacecraft, is in Cape Canaveral preparing for a launch on a Falcon 9 rocket in March that will fly with a previously-used first stage booster for the first time.

Once in orbit, the Dragon supply freighter unfurled two power-generating solar array wings to a span of 54 feet (16 meters). The spacecraft was scheduled to open a navigation bay later Sunday and fine-tune its course toward the space station with a series of thruster firings ahead of its arrival at the outpost early Wednesday.

French-born European Space Agency flight engineer Thomas Pesquet will grapple the approaching cargo craft around 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) Wednesday with the space stations robotic arm after the automated ship flies within about 30 feet, or 10 meters, of the research complex.

The Canadian-built robot arm, under the command of ground controllers in Houston, will transfer the gumdrop-shaped logistics freighter to a berthing port on the stations Harmony module a few hours later.

Once bolts drive closed to firmly connect the SpaceX cargo craft to the space station, astronauts inside the orbiting science lab will open hatches and begin unpacking the 3,373 pounds (1,530 kilograms) of supplies, experiments and provisions inside.

Meanwhile, the robot arm and the stations two-armed Dextre handyman will remove three payloads totaling more than 2,100 pounds (more than 950 kilograms) from the Dragons unpressurized trunk for placement on platforms on the outposts huge structural truss.

One of the payloads is NASAs $92 million Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment 3, or SAGE 3, an ozone monitor that comes with a separate ESA-built hexapod mounting plate designed to point the instrument at Earths limb, or horizon, at sunset and moonset.

The sunlight and moonlight passing through the layers of the upper atmosphere will help tell scientists about the condition of the ozone layer and allow researchers to track pollutants and particles suspended high above Earth.

SAGE 3, developed by NASAs Langley Research Center in Virginia, is the latest in a series of ozone measurement sensors developed by NASA since 1979. Previous space missions studying ozone showed a decline in the distribution of the gas over Earths poles, and researchers tied the ozone depletion to chlorofluorocarbon, a chemical used in cleaning agents, refrigeration and air conditioning.

An international treaty called the Montreal Protocol that went into force in 1989 banned chlorofluorocarbons, and scientists have observed the depletion stop and watched the ozone layer begin to recover.

How does SAGE 3 fit into that? Were going to make measurements from the space station that show the recovery is on track, said Michael Cisewski, SAGE 3 project manager at NASA. I think that, from a science perspective, it doesnt get any better than that.

SAGE 3 will also measure other important stratospheric gases and atmospheric aerosols, which are components of pollution that also impact the radiation balance of our planet, said Michael Freilich, director of NASAs Earth science division.

The other experiment package carried inside the Dragon capsules external bay is sponsored by the U.S. militarys Space Test Program, hosting more than a dozen investigations for NASA and the Defense Department.

Among STP-H5s investigations are NASAs Raven autonomous space navigation demonstration designed to support future satellite servicing missions and NASAs Lightning Imaging Sensor.

The Raven payload is made up of three sensors optical, infrared and laser trackers to autonomously follow visiting cargo vessels arriving and departing from the space station.

Benjamin Reed, deputy director of NASAs satellite servicing program at Goddard Space Flight Center, called Raven a three-eyed instrument.

The Raven module will be observing visiting vehicles as they approach in all three wavelengths, Reed said. We will be generating range, bearing and pose estimates of those visiting vehicles on-board with sophisticated algorithms and on-board processing, based on the input that the sensors are receiving.

Raven is a follow-up to a NASA experiment that tried out satellite refueling techniques using a boilerplate test panel outside the space station.

The satellite servicing demonstrations will refine the technologies needed for future robotic missions to refuel, refurbish, upgrade and reposition satellites, beginning with NASAs Restore-L spacecraft in development for launch in 2020 to gas up the aging Landsat 7 environmental observatory in orbit.

Raven will try out the navigation equipment needed for Restore-L, and missions like it, to approach another object in orbit without any input from the ground and latch on to it, even if the target was never designed for a docking.

Landsat 7 was launched in 1999 before any such refueling mission was ever proposed, so it is not equipped with markings or a docking port.

These technologies are quite difficult, and that is why NASA is taking the lead, pushing the envelope, (and) doing the hard work first, Reed said. Once we have developed it on missions like Raven, we will then transfer that technology to U.S. industry that is interested in taking this on commercially.

The Lightning Imaging Sensor, managed by NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will take pictures and log lightning strikes from the space stations perch nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth.

Based on a spare camera made for the U.S.-Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, the instrument cost $7 million to refurbish and will detect lightning day and night in a belt between 56 degrees north and south latitude.

Lightning actually occurs somewhere on Earth some 45 times every single second, Freilich said. Understanding the processes which cause lighting and the connections between lightning and subsequent severe weather events like convective storms and tornadoes are keys to improving weather predictions and saving lives and property in this country and throughout the globe.

A bevy of biological experiments are packed inside the Dragon supply ship.

Scientists are sending 40 mice into orbit to examine how bone fractures heal in the absence of gravity, and search for the biological reasons why most animals, including humans, cannot regrow lost limbs.

Were trying to understand what happens in the body as the bones start healing, said Rasha Hammamieh, the rodent research projects chief scientist from the U.S. Army Center for Environmental Health Research.

The military is co-sponsoring the bone health experiment, with an eye toward learning lessons that could be applied to helping injured soldiers recover from catastrophic bone injuries.

There are also implications for civilians, such as elderly patients with osteoporosis.

Up in space, you lose bone, said Melissa Kacena, co-investigator for the bone experiment and an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, anatomy and cell biology, and biomedical engineering at Indiana University. In fact, astronauts lose about 1 to 3 percent of their bone density in a month. Someone with advanced osteoporosis loses closer to 1 percent per year.

Kacena added that scientists want to test drugs on rodents that might be able to rebuild your bone systematically, so it could have applications not only for bone healing, but also for osteoporosis.

Astronauts on the space station will euthanize the mice and return them to Earth for comparison with a control group that remained on the ground.

Bacterial and stem cell researchers also had a stake in Sundays launch.

We are excited to put MRSA, which is a superbug, on the International Space Station and investigate the effects of microgravity on the growth and mutation patterns of these bugs, said Anita Goel, chairman and science director of Nanobiosym, which developed the experiment with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

I have this hypothesis that microgravity will accelerate the mutation patterns. If we can use microgravity as an accelerator to fast forward and get a sneak preview of what these mutations will look like, then we can esssentially build smarter drugs back on Earth.

A science team led by a Mayo Clinic biologist is sending human adult stem cells to the space station, pursuing research that could help transplant patients and stroke victims.

We know stem cells grow differently using simulated microgravity, said Abba Zubair, medical and scientific director of the Cell Therapy Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Primarily, our focus is to see if microgravity actually can help stem cells to expand faster, so that we can grow more of them to bring back to use for human application.

The Dragon spaceship will remain at the space station until around March 21, when it will detach and head for a re-entry and parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, where SpaceX will safe the capsule, transfer it back to port, and begin removing the returned cargo.

The resupply mission is SpaceXs tenth cargo launch to the space station. The company has two multibillion-dollar cargo contracts with NASA covering at least 26 round-trip missions.

SpaceXs next launch is scheduled within the next two weeks perhaps as soon as Feb. 28 with the EchoStar 23 communications satellite. That flight will also blast off from pad 39A.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Historic launch pad back in service with thundering blastoff by SpaceX – Spaceflight Now

Space flight is next frontier for UK under new powers – Belfast Telegraph

Science minister Jo Johnson said the bill would “cement the UK’s position as a world leader in this emerging market”

Space ports could be set up and satellites launched from regions across the UK under new powers to be unveiled this week.

The Spaceflight Bill will also allow scientists to fly to the edge of space and conduct experiments in zero gravity, which could help develop vaccines and antibiotics, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

Science minister Jo Johnson said the bill would “cement the UK’s position as a world leader in this emerging market”.

The first commercial flight from a UK space port could lift off by 2020 under the powers, the DfT said.

Mr Johnson said: “From the launch of Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, to Tim Peake’s six months on the International Space Station, the UK’s space sector has achieved phenomenal things in orbit and beyond.

“With this week’s Spaceflight Bill launch, we will cement the UK’s position as a world leader in this emerging market, giving us an opportunity to build on existing strengths in research and innovation.”

Aviation minister Lord Ahmad said: “We have never launched a spaceflight before from this country. Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age.”

The Bill will be unveiled in parliament this week.

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Space flight is next frontier for UK under new powers – Belfast Telegraph

ULA gives sneak peek at SLS’ second stage before it gets shipped to Florida – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

February 20th, 2017

The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) is transported to a pressure test area at ULAs Decatur, AL, manufacturing facility. Image Credit: NASA

DECATUR, Ala. United Launch Alliance (ULA) invited media to their 1.6 million-square-foot (148,645 m2) rocket factory in northern Alabama to get a look at the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) flight hardware prior to it being shipped to Florida. SpaceFlight Insider was on hand at this event and had a chance to speak with industry insiders about the progress being made on NASAs Space Launch System (SLS).

Though a significant amount of hardware has been manufactured for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) the first flight of the super-heavy-lift rocket the SLS is still very much a vehicle waiting to be assembled. However, while large portions of the mammoth rocket have yet to leave the manufacturing floor, progress has been steady and completed flight hardware is beginning to take shape.

ULA was tapped by Boeing the prime contractor for SLS core stage to construct a modified Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) to support the SLS for its first flight. After delivering a test article of the ICPS to NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in 2016, the company is now ready to cross a key milestone in SLS construction: the completion of a major propulsion system for the vehicle.

This is the first piece of integrated flight hardware for the SLS system to be shipped down to the Cape in preparation for our very first launch, said Jerry Cook, Deputy SLS Program Manager for NASA. Cook noted that the ICPS test article is currently undergoing stress and load tests at Marshall.

The completion of the ICPS is yet another landmark in SLS development, though some contend its stilla drawing-board vehicle.John Shannon, Boeings Vice President and General Manager of the SLS Program, disagrees.

John Shannon, Boeings Vice President and General Manager for the SLS Program, speaks with SpaceFlight Insider about the companys progress on SLS. Photo Credit: Curt Godwin / SpaceFlight Insider

The SLS has, in various forms, been called a paper rocket [] and, if I think you look to your right, youll see that absolutely is not true, stated Shannon. If you had the opportunity to go to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where were puttingthe bigger core stage together, you would also see that it is not true because we are putting hardware together as we speak.

Shannon also noted that the Boeing team at Michoud is nearly back up to 100 percent after the facility sustained damage from a direct hit by a tornado.

Considering the damage sustained by the facility, SpaceFlight Insider was interested in how the flight hardware at Michoud fared in the wake of the tornado and asked Cook the disposition of the pieces already constructed.

After noting that no one was killed or seriously injured in the incident, hewent on to discuss the hardware itself.

From an assessment of the flight hardware, we havent seen anything that has sustained any type of major damage, Cook told SpaceFlight Insider.

Beyond that, there were some minor dings and scratches, and some buildings are still without power. Cook hopes to have a complete analysis of the state of Michoud in the next 23 weeks.

Though the facilityis designed to support a flight cadence of 12 launches per year, Boeings Shannon told SpaceFlight Insider he holds a more optimistic view.

I would like to see us, certainly, get to two a year;though, with some minor modifications to the facility, we could get to four a year.

Recently, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot announcedthat he was directing the agency to study the feasibility of converting EM-1 to a crewed mission. Until a firm plan comes to light, though, the agency and its partners will continue to work toward a late 2018 date for the uncrewed launch of EM-1.

Whether or not EM-1 carries crew is not as relevant to Astronaut Butch Wilmore as what the rocket represents. He sees the SLS as the vehicle needed to advance human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit.

Right over here in this test cell is the start of taking humans to deep space, stated Wilmore.

If NASA has anything to say about it, that may be sooner than many had anticipated.

The ICPS flight article is in a pressure test chamber at ULAs Decatur manufacturing facility. Photo Credit: Curt Godwin / SpaceFlight Insider

Tagged: Exploration Mission 1 Lead Stories Space Launch System United Launch Alliance

Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field. He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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ULA gives sneak peek at SLS’ second stage before it gets shipped to Florida – SpaceFlight Insider


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