Cargo manifest for SpaceX’s 10th space station resupply mission – Spaceflight Now

File photo of a Dragon supply ship berthed at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The 10th dedicated cargo delivery mission by SpaceXs Dragon spacecraft, and the first to liftoff from launch pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center, will carry more than 5,000 pounds of equipment to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft is set for launch no earlier than Saturday, Feb. 18, and should reach the space station Monday, Feb. 20. A Falcon 9 rocket will send the Dragon cargo carrier into orbit for the two-day transit to the research outpost.

SpaceX has launched nine resupply missions to the space station to date, including one cargo capsule lost in a launch failure. One more Dragon spacecraft flew to the space station in May 2012 on a demonstration mission.

In addition to more than 3,000 pounds of cargo inside Dragons pressurized cabin, the spacecrafts external trunk is packed with two experiment packages to be mounted outside the space station by the robotic arm.

One of the instruments, NASAsStratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment 3, will study ozone and aerosol tiny particles in the atmosphere from an observing post on one of the space stations external payload platforms.

Another unpressurized payload is sponsored by the U.S. militarys Space Test Program, hosting a suite of 13 experiments for the Defense Department and NASA.

Among STP-H5s investigations: NASAs Raven autonomous space navigation demonstration designed to support future satellite servicing missions, NASAs Lightning Imaging Sensor, NASAs SpaceCube-Mini miniaturized computer processor, the Air Forces Spacecraft Structural Health Monitoring payload to capture how fasteners, glue and mechanical parts respond to the harsh environment of space, the Air ForcesRadiation Hardened Electronic Memory Experiment, and two Naval Research Laboratory payloads intended to study the structure, composition and density of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

NASA has provided a breakdown of the cargo manifest listed below.

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Trump space advisors considering Hubble servicing mission – SpaceFlight Insider

Bart Leahy

February 16th, 2017

The Hubble Space Telescope as seen by the departing STS-125 crew after a week servicing the observatory in 2009. Photo Credit: NASA

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump administrationadvisers are considering a public-private crewed mission aboard the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC)Dream Chaser spacecraft to keep the aging Hubble Space Telescope (HST) operational. The proposed mission, which would not happen before 2019, would require support from the next NASA administrator.

The crew variant of Dream Chaser. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

The Journal suggested the mission would align well with the Trump administrations desire to advance public-private partnerships while also advancingmissions that could be accomplished within the presidents current four-year term.

According to the Journal story, Mark Sirangelo, head of SNCs space systems unit, told a conference last week that Dream Chaser could be used as an exploration vehicle, a free-flight science laboratory and a servicing vehicle for in-orbit satellites and spacecraft. Additionally, an SNC representative stated that Dream Chaser was designed from the beginning to be a multi-mission orbital transportation system eventually targeting servicing, repair and assembly of technology in space.

The Journal story also stated that updatingHubblewould require relatively few additional dollars because the telescope has a modular design and Dream Chasers cargo variant already is undergoing flight tests. The vehicle would need additional life-support systems as well as a launch abort system designed to protect the crew in the event of an explosion or serious problem on the pad or during early phases of its ascent.

However, before Dream Chaser can be sent to chase Hubble in its 335-mile (539-kilometer) orbit, it first has to fly into space.

SNC is still conducting development and testing activities on the spacecraft at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California as part of its Commercial Resupply Services contract. Another glide test of the vehicle is scheduled for spring 2017, with the first cargo launch to the International Space Station scheduled for sometime in 2019.

Having launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-31 in 1990, Hubbles primary mirror was discovered to have improperly manufactured optics, requiring its first servicing mission. That mission,STS-61, launched aboard Shuttle Endeavor in 1993. It corrected the optics and installed additional instruments to support the telescopes science mission.

Hubble Space Telescope being lifted from the payload bay of Atlantis following repairs during STS-125. Photo Credit: NASA

Four subsequent missions in 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2009 replaced items such as spectrographs, thermal insulation, gyroscopes, batteries, computers, and other components.

With these repairs, James Jeletic, deputy project manager of Hubble operations at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, told CBS News in 2013 that he believed Hubble could operate up to 2020.

Without a reboost, Hubblewill re-enter Earths atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2040.

Dream Chasers availability aside, the question remains: Is a sixth mission to Hubble a good investment of NASAs time and limited budget?

Jim Muncy, a long-time space lobbyist with PoliSpace and senior adviser to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told Spaceflight Insider:

I think the concept of using a commercial crewed vehicle to service Hubble makes a lot of sense. Its good to see SNC thinking creatively they have always talked about DreamChaser as a platform as well as a crew/cargo transporter, so this makes sense. Its not clear to me whether or not a Dragon or Starliner could carry out the same sort of mission.The SNCs cargo variants expendable mission module could make for a great airlock to allow crew to egress.But none of these vehicles have an arm for grappling Hubble [] so youd have to do some interesting EVA work to tether them together.

When asked if Hubbles role could be supplemented by existing ground-based telescopes, Dr. Tom Brown, Mission Head of the Hubble Space Telescope, told Spaceflight Insider:

Hubble is currently performing well, and it provides unique capabilities that are not achievable from any ground facility in existence or planned (e.g., ultraviolet imaging and spectroscopy, high-resolution optical imaging with low backgrounds).We expect Hubble to provide these capabilities for at least a few years of overlap with the upcoming mission of the James Webb Space Telescope, launching in late 2018. Beyond that, the Space Telescope Science Institute has no official position regarding the servicing of Hubble to extend its lifetime.

Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the Lick Observatory, has used Hubble to study the formation of galaxies. Regardingthe potential worth of a Hubble servicing mission. Dr. Illingworthtold Spaceflight Insider:

The question of the worth of another servicing mission hinges on a careful evaluation of the capabilities of the upcomingWFIRST[Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope] Hubble-like telescope (similar in size) and on what we would do differently with Hubble. I have heard some interesting ideas for instruments that would be great to have on Hubble. While I might love to have Hubble serviced again, one needs a hard-nosed evaluation of the science that would be gained to decide if it is worth the cost.

What we would try to do in space for astrophysics depends a lot of what is judged to lead to the most interesting scientific results. This is always a topic of much discussion among scientists. And ultimately we look to the Decadal Survey to establish our priorities.

While JWST is not serviceable, we expect that most future telescopes will be potentially serviceable. Current plans are to make WFIRST serviceable []. And larger future telescopes beyond will surely be serviceableand maybe even will be assembled and tested in space by astronauts and robotic capability.

The James WebbSpace Telescope (JWST), Hubbles designated successor observatory, is scheduled to launch to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in 2018. One argument for updating Hubble is that could serve as a backup space telescope in case JWST suffers a failure of some kind.

As Illingworth noted, unlike Hubble, JWSTis not designed to be serviced in space.Lynn Chandler with NASAs JWST Communications group told Spaceflight Insider,

In the early days of the Webb project, studies were conducted to evaluate the benefits, practicality and cost of servicing Webb either by human space flight, by robotic missions, or by some combination such as retrieval to low-Earth orbit. Those studies concluded that the potential benefits of servicing do not offset the increases in mission complexity, mass and cost that would be required to make Webb serviceable, or to conduct the servicing mission itself.

Whether NASA decides to pursue this commercial Hubble servicing mission will be up to the next agency administrator. As with any new presidential administration, the answer, for now, is wait and see.

Tagged: Dream Chaser Hubble Space Telescope James Webb Space Telescope Lead Stories NASA Sierra Nevada Corporation

Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy’s diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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Trump space advisors considering Hubble servicing mission – SpaceFlight Insider

Weather could stand in way of Falcon 9 launch Saturday – Spaceflight Now

File photo of a Falcon 9 rocket inside a SpaceX hangar at Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

Rainy weather expected across Central Florida this weekend has a 50-50 chance of preventing the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Saturday on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, U.S. Air Force forecasters said Wednesday.

The official weather outlook issued by the Air Forces 45th Weather Squadron calls for thick clouds and isolated rain showers at Cape Canaveral during Saturdays launch countdown.

Liftoff is timed for 10:01 a.m. EST (1501 GMT), roughly the moment the space stations orbital path is positioned above Floridas Space Coast.

But meteorologists are tracking a upper-level trough expected to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.

On Saturday, this upper-level trough will migrate east, bringing the clouds and rain over the Florida peninsula, the Air Force weather team wrote in Wednesdays forecast. The clouds and rain will gradually increase through the countdown and be entrenched over the spaceport by midday. The primary weather concern for launch Saturday is the thick cloud cover and rain showers associated with the upper-level trough.

There is a 50 percent chance the weather conditions will violate one of the Falcon 9s launch rules.

The outlook calls for mostly cloudy skies, isolated rain showers, southeast winds of 10 to 15 mph, and a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the launch is delayed to Sunday, the weather should improve, with a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

On Sunday, the cloudiness and rain associated with the upper-level trough will continue to slowly move east, diminishing through the countdown, forecasters wrote. The main weather concern will be cumulus clouds associated with lingering instability.

The 213-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket will take off from launch pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center, a complex just inland from the beach originally constructed for Saturn 5 moon rockets in the 1960s and modified in the late 1970s to support space shuttle flights.

SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for the launch pad in 2014, and the company has temporarily transferred all of its Florida launches to pad 39A while workers repair damage to nearby pad 40 after a rocket exploded there in September.

Crews finished modifications and testing of the historic Apollo-era launch pad with a fueling and hotfire test of the Falcon 9s first stage engines Sunday. The successful test verified the new RP-1 and liquid oxygen fueling system installed by SpaceX at pad 39A.

Technicians rolled the rocket back inside SpaceXs hangar at the southern perimeter of the launch facility for attachment of the Dragon cargo capsule loaded with supplies for the space station and its six-person crew, including a lightning imager and an instrument to monitor the health of the atmospheres ozone layer.

The Dragon supply ship will carry 5,266 pounds (2,389 kilograms) of cargo on SpaceXs 10th logistics launch to the orbiting research outpost. If the mission takes off as scheduled Saturday, the cargo carrier will reach the space station Monday, with grapple by the robotic arm expected around 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).

SpaceX has two cargo transportation contracts with NASA for at least 26 space station supply shipments through 2024.

The rocket is expected to return to the pad this week, riding a new transporter-erector that will hoist the Falcon 9 vertical on the launch mount over the flame trench.

After liftoff, the Falcon 9s first stage will return to Cape Canaveral from the edge of space, targeting a rocket-assisted vertical touchdown at SpaceXs Landing Zone 1 about 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of pad 39A. The recovery would mark the third time a Falcon 9 booster stage has landed at Cape Canaveral, and the first time in daylight.

Final regulatory approval for the launch and landing from the Federal Aviation Administration is still pending.

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Weather could stand in way of Falcon 9 launch Saturday – Spaceflight Now

Georgia Space Flight Act passes in the House, closer to bringing jobs to Camden County – Firstcoastnews.com

First Coast News , WTLV 3:09 PM. EST February 16, 2017

Georgia Capitol Building (Photo: FCN)

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill 162-5 that would define procedures for space flight in Georgia, as well as bring jobs to the state.

HB1, the Georgia Space Flight Act, is sponsored by Georgia Representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine). It would limit a “willing participant’s” ability to sue for damages relating to space flight activities, as well as require the participant to give informed consent.

Proponents of the bill also say it will bring jobs to the state.

“Today’s passage of HB1 sends a clear message to the commercial space industry that Georgia is serious about bringing much needed high-tech jobs to our state,” said Rep. Spencer. “Georgia and Camden County are becoming well positioned as an attractive hub for the (space) industry’s future business activities and operations, bringing significant economic and inspirational benefits to the citizens of Georgia.”

The commercial space industry continues to grow from its current base of $330 billion per year, Spencer says.

( 2017 WTLV)

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Georgia Space Flight Act passes in the House, closer to bringing jobs to Camden County – Firstcoastnews.com

104-satellite launch marks success for India (and Seattle’s Spaceflight Industries) – GeekWire

Indias Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, sending 104 satellites spaceward. (ISRO Photo)

A record-setting flock of 104 satellites was successfully deployed into orbit overnight after the launch of an Indian rocket. Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries played a part in getting nine of those satellites where they needed to go.

Indias Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota at 9:28 a.m. local time today (7:58 p.m. PT Tuesday).

The missions main payload was the Indian Space Research Organizations Cartosat 2D, a car-sized satellite designed for environmental mapping. Another 88 Dove nanosatellites, each about the size of a toaster oven, will become part of Planets Earth-observing constellation.

Eight more nanosatellites were launched for Spire Global, which is filling out a constellation to monitor weather as well as aviation and maritimetraffic. This is the second Spire PSLV mission facilitated by Spaceflight Industries, which handles launch logistics.

Spaceflight also arranged to get Israel Aerospace Industries BGUSat nanosatellite on the flight. BGUSat is a research spacecraft built by students at Ben Gurion University to perform cloud imaging and measure atmospheric background radiation.

Sixmore research satellites rounded out the flock, which represented the highest number of satellites launched on a single rocket. ISRO said all 104 satellites were successfully deployed into pole-to-pole orbits within a half-hour after launch.

The mission marked a numerical milestone for Spaceflight Industries as well as for Indias space effort.

Weve hit (and passed) the 100-satellite milestone, Spaceflight said in a pre-launch blog posting. With this launch, weve sent103 satellites to space since our first one in 2013. The team at Spaceflight is proud of this achievement, and to be part of enabling the growth of commercial enterprises and new science missions in space.

In addition to launch logistics, Spaceflight is building its own spacecraft for its BlackSky Earth-observing constellation. Its first BlackSky Pathfinder satellite was launched on a PSLV rocket last September, and the second Pathfinder is due to be sent into orbit later this year.

Eventually, Spaceflights BlackSky subsidiary aims to have 60 satellites sending down on-demand imagery from low Earth orbit.

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104-satellite launch marks success for India (and Seattle’s Spaceflight Industries) – GeekWire

Potential Landing Sites for Mars 2020 Narrowed Down to Three – SpaceFlight Insider

Paul Knightly

February 16th, 2017

Three potential landing sites for NASAs Mars 2020 rover. Image Credit: NASA

The number of potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover has been narrowed down to three, from a list of eight, following a conference of scientists last week. The top three landing sites that were selected were in Northeast Syrtis Major, Jezero Crater, and the Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater. The landing sites in the Columbia Hills and Syrtis Major display evidence of geothermal and mineral hot springs that could have been conducive to hosting primitive life, and Jerezo Crater shows evidence that it was once a lake of liquid water.

This image lies in the middle of a candidate landing site in the Northeast part of Syrtis Major, a huge shield volcano, and near the Northwest rim of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin. Image & Caption Credit: NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS / JHU-APL

Northeast Syrtis Major was once influenced by volcanic activity that warmed underground sources of water ice that reached the surface as mineral hot springs. These hot springs could have hosted microbial life similar to organisms that have been found in similar environments on Earth. The area also displays layered terrain that holds a record of the interactions between water and minerals throughout early Martian history.

On ancient Mars, water-carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit shows that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. (Reference: Ehlmann et al. 2008.) Image & Caption Credit: NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS / JHU-APL

Jezero Crater is an example of the on-again/off-again nature of liquid water on Mars. There is evidence that the crater was filled and drained of water on at least two different occasions around 3.5 billion years ago. Channels can be seen leading into and out of the crater, and there is spectral evidence that suggests clay minerals were formed and deposited as sediment in the lake. These clay minerals are similar to the sediments being examined by the Curiosityrover in Gale Crater and could have played host to microbial life.

This approximate true-color image taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows a rock outcrop dubbed Longhorn, and behind it, the sweeping plains of Gusev Crater. On the horizon, the rim of Gusev Crater is clearly visible. The view is to the south of the rovers current position. The image consists of four frames taken by the 750-, 530- and 430-nanometer filters of Spirits panoramic camera on sol 210 (August 5, 2004). Image & Caption Credit: NASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS / JHU-APL

The Columbia Hills were famously explored by the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit between 20032010 where it discovered evidence the area once hosted a hot spring with liquid water similar in composition to hot springs found on Earth. If selected as the final landing site, the Mars 2020 rover would further inspect hot spring sediments to investigate their potential to host life. Mars 2020 will also revisit an outcrop that was visited by Spirit which in a recent analysis by scientists was thought to resemble a fossilized mat of microbial organisms that have been found in similar hot spring sediments on Earth. This particular outcrop represents the strongest evidence for fossilized life to have been found on the Martian surface to date.

The Mars 2020 rover is designed to address several key scientific objectives and the effectiveness of the potential landing sites to meet those objectives factored into the selection of the final three landing sites. Those objectives are the following:

Additionally, the Mars 2020 landing site must also meet the following criteria:

The three finalist landing sites were selected from an original list of 8 which also included Eberswalde Crater, Holden Crater, Mawrth Vallis, Nili Fossae, and Southwest Melas Chasma. The rover is currently under development and is similar in construction and function to Curiosity and is targeted to launch during the summer of 2020 and landing on Mars in early 2021.

Tagged: Mars Mars 2020 NASA The Range

Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

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Try To Survive A Doomed Space Flight In ‘Homebound’ – Tom’s Hardware

Quixel, a studio most recognized for its hand in developing graphics technologies for game franchises such as Battlefield, Destiny, Doom, Starcraft, and Dark Souls, has announced that its debut VR title is now available on Steam for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to plummet to the earth in a failing spacecraft? Homebound is your (one-way) ticket to exactly that, as you become a lone astronaut struggling to survive a disaster as your ship hurdles out of control towards the planet.

As an increasingly sinister-sounding computer AI guides you through the ship, youll start with menial tasks that allow you to explore the spacecraft and experience the joy of weightlessness (and ruffled potato chips). The mood will start to get creepy as you discover more of your environment, with the trailer implying that there is more to your mission than just being a good astronaut. Youll inevitably press a stereotypical big red button, at which point things take an intense turn for the worse, as explosions tear through the ship and send it crashing towards Earth. (Get it? Homebound!)

Homebound was created using Quixel Suite, the texturing toolkit used in many of the aforementioned AAA game titles. The engine purportedly offers increased visual fidelity, with the company claiming its Megascans technology delivers the most believable surfaces to date in VR. Whether that’s true or not, you’ll need significant horsepower under the hood to meet Homebound’s recommended specs, which calls for a GTX 980ti and an Intel Core i7 processor. Windows 10 is also preferred, with the spec list suggesting DirectX 12 as the recommended API.

You can download Homebound now from Steam, for a limited-time price of $7. The promotion ends on February 23, when the game returns to its full price of $9.

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Indian rocket set to place 104 satellites in orbit – Spaceflight Now

Indias Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is scheduled to fire into orbit early Wednesday with 104 satellites on-board, setting a record for the largest flock of spacecraft ever launched on a single rocket.

Most of the payloads cocooned inside the PSLVs nose shroud are as small as a toaster oven, set to join commercial fleets tasked with daily imaging of the Earth and the collection of weather data to improve forecast models.

The 145-foot-tall (44-meter), four-stage PSLV is set for liftoff at 0358 GMT Wednesday (10:58 p.m. EST Tuesday) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Indias launch base on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

The launch is scheduled for 9:28 a.m. local time in India.

The prime passenger aboard the rocket is the Indian Space Research Organizations Cartosat 2D environmental satellite, a 1,574-pound (714-kilogram) observatory to help analysts update maps, plan urban and rural infrastructure, monitor coastlines and track water usage.

Deployment pods mounted on the PSLVs upper stage also hold 96 CubeSats made by Planet and Spire Global, two San Francisco companies adding to commercial satellite constellations.

Planets 88 spacecraft awaiting blastoff will nearly double the number of satellites the company has launched since its founding in 2010. The majority of Planets orbiting camera platforms have been ejected from the International Space Station in orbits that do not fly over the entire globe, while the satellites going up from India will launch into polar orbit, enabling worldwide coverage.

The small 10.3-pound (4.7-kilogram) CubeSats, nicknamed Doves, carry a sharp-eyed camera, extendable solar panels, and high-speed data transmitters to beam images to antennas around the world. Each flock of Planet satellites debuts upgraded technology, with the suite of spacecraft launching Wednesday named Flock 3p.

This is the fifteenth time Planet is launching Dove satellites; and it will be our biggest launch to date, Planet wrote in an update on its website earlier this month. Combined with the 12 satellites of Flock 2p operating in a similar orbit, this launch will enable Planets 100 satellite line scanner constellation of Doves. With our RapidEye satellites and Doves operating in other orbits, Planet will be imaging the entire Earth daily.

Planets satellites do not have the high resolution of larger, more expensive Earth observatories like those owned and operated by DigitalGlobe but their large numbers allow customers to refresh views of a specific location on the ground more often.

The launch of 88 Dove satellites comes less than two weeks after Planet announced the acquisition of Terra Bella from Google, which has a constellation of seven higher-resolution spacecraft capable of recording high-definition video during passes over ground targets.

Eight 10.1-pound (4.6-kilogram) Lemur satellites owned by Spire Global are also set for launch Wednesday.

The shoebox-sized craft carry GPS radio occultation antennas, using satellite navigation signals passed through Earths atmosphere to derive temperature and humidity profiles that can be fed into numerical forecast models.

Spires satellites also track ships out of range of terrestrial receivers.

The company has launched a total of 21 CubeSats, some of which have ended their missions.

Spire won a $370,000 contract from NOAA in September to supply pilot data for the weather agency to determine the informations usefulness. If the pilot program proves fruitful, NOAA could place an order for more weather data from Spire and other commercial satellite startups to supplement measurements from government-owned satellites.

Seattle-based Spaceflight Services booked the Spire satellites aboard Indias PSLV mission, along with an Israeli CubeSat named BGUSat developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Ben Gurion University. BGUSat, conceived as an educational research project, will take pictures of clouds from space and measure atmospheric background radiation.

The other international payloads stowed for Wednesdays launch are four CubeSats for institutes and companies in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan.

ThePiezo Electric Assisted Smart Satellite Structure, or PEASSS, project will validate a new class of composite structures and power systems for future space missions.

Backed by European Union research and development funding, the PEASS mission will help develop, manufacture, test and qualify smart structures which combine composite panels, piezoelectric materials, and next-generation sensors, for autonomously improved pointing accuracy and power generation in space, officials wrote on the mission website.

Smart structures will enable fine angle control, thermal and vibration compensation, improving all types of future Earth observations, such as environmental and planetary mapping, border and regional imaging, according to mission officials.

The 6.6-pound (3-kilogram) PEASSS spacecraft was developed by a consortium of Dutch companies and scientific institutes.

The Swiss-headquartered company SpacePharma is launching its first satellite Wednesday. Named DIDO 2, the 9.3-pound (4.2-kilogram) CubeSat is the first in a line of small spacecraft SpacePharma hopes to send into orbit hosting miniature microgravity research experiments.

The student-built Al-Farabi 1 and Nayif 1 CubeSats from Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, respectively, are also heading to space on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. Al-Farabi 1 will test out a communications system, and Nayif 1 carries an amateur radio transponder.

The 101 international CubeSats are stored inside 25 QuadPacks built by Innovative Solutions in Space, a Dutch firm specializing in arranging rideshare launches for small satellites.

Two Indian nanosatellites, named INS 1A and 1B, round out the 104 spacecraft awaiting blastoff.

INS 1A and 1B, each weighing about 20 pounds (9 kilograms), will demonstrate a new type of camera and gather measurements of Earths atmosphere and the space environment.

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Indian rocket set to place 104 satellites in orbit – Spaceflight Now

No imminent X-37B landing planned – Spaceflight Now

An artists concept of X-37B in orbit. Credit: Boeing

CAPE CANAVERAL The enigmatic X-37B spaceplane, launched into low-Earth orbit on an experimental military mission in 2015, continues to circle the planet despite a flurry of landing rumors.

The X-37 is still on-orbit. The program is conducting a regularly scheduled exercise this week, said Capt. Annmarie Annicelli, media operations officer at the Pentagons Air Force Press Desk.

Internet chatter buzzed in recent days about a potential landing of the stubby-winged spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Centers Shuttle Landing Facility as early as this morning.

But the Pentagon put those rumors to rest with its brief but pointed statement.

The X-37B was launched on May 20, 2015 and spent its 636th day in space today on a classified mission.

This fourth flight of the unmanned and reusable spaceplane program carried at least two payloads on its latest voyage. The military revealed before the ship took off that it was carrying an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.

What else, if anything, the vehicle is carrying in its pickup truck-size cargo bay is unknown.

As of today, the X-37B program has used twin reusable vehicles to amass 2,004 cumulative days in space on four flights since 2010, launching like a satellite atop Atlas 5 rockets and then landing like an airplane.

The three previous flights landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the Air Force and builder Boeing have worked to consolidate all X-37B launch and landing operations at the Kennedy Space Center to use the former hangars and runway from the now-retired civilian program.

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Photos: Ariane 5 rocket in position for first launch of 2017 – Spaceflight Now

A powerful Ariane 5 rocket rolled out of its vertical assembly hangar to a tropical launch pad on the shores of South America on Monday, and these photos show the booster on the eve of liftoff.

Standing 180 feet (55 meters) tall, the Ariane 5 is scheduled for blastoff Tuesday with the Sky Brasil 1 and Telkom 3S communications satellites. It will be the 91st launch of an Ariane 5 rocket since 1996, and the first of up to seven Ariane 5 flights planned by Arianespace in 2017.

The images below show the Ariane 5 emerging from the final assembly building in French Guiana for the 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) journey to the ELA-3 launch zone. Officials also released photos of the rocket after arriving at the launch pad, which sits in a clearing about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Atlantic coast.

The rocket is composed of a core stage and upper stage, each consuming cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, and two side-mounted solid rocket boosters with pre-packed powder fuel.

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Photos: Ariane 5 rocket in position for first launch of 2017 – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage: European launcher counting down to blastoff – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of an Ariane 5 rocket with the Sky Brasil 1 and Telkom 3S communications satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below;there is no need to reload the page. Follow us onTwitter.

Arianespaces live video stream begins at approximately 2120 GMT (4:20 p.m. EST). Please ensure your browser is updated with the latest version of Flash.

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Live coverage: European launcher counting down to blastoff – Spaceflight Now

Scientists narrow list of landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover – Spaceflight Now

The delta inside Jezero Crater offers one of the best locations on Mars to look for the remains of ancient microbes, according to scientists. Jezero Crater received the most votes during a ranking of potential destinations for NASAs Mars 2020 rover last week. This image combines information from two instruments on NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: the context camera and CRISM spectrometer. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHUAPL

A rover NASA plans to launch to Mars in 2020 will likely explore one of three locations selected last week by a scientific advisory group, which picked candidate landing sites that were once homes to ancient lakes and hot springs.

Were looking for a site thats ancient around 4 or so billion years old because thats when we think Mars had water flowing and a more clement environment, said Jack Mustard, a professor at Brown University who sits on the Mars landing site selection board. We need to be able to characterize the habitability of that environment and look for preserved biosignatures. And in addition to the science on the ground, we need to find the right samples to return later.

The six-wheeled robot, similar in appearance and capability to NASAs Curiosity rover currently on Mars, will look for signs of past Martian life, assess the habitability of the environment, and measure the chemical, mineral and organic make-up of rocks, with an emphasis on hunting for biosignatures, the natural relics left behind by alien microbes.

Its other chief objectives will be to collect at least 30 test tube-sized core samples for possible retrieval and return to Earth on a future mission, and test a new device to generate oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, validating a tool future missions could employ to produce breathable air, water and rocket fuel.

Scientists met last week in California to narrow a list of eight potential destinations selected in 2015. Acting on the advice of the 172 researchers, NASA settled on three finalists Saturday, setting the stage for a final decision by top agency managers in 2018 or 2019.

The robotic mission, officially named Mars 2020 for now, will launch in July 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket and reach the red planet in February 2021, descending through the atmosphere with the assistance of a heat shield, parachutes and braking rockets before cables unreel to place the rover on the surface.

The sky crane descent system is based on the technology demonstrated with the landing of Curiosity on Mars in August 2012.

The shortlist of landing sites includes the Columbia Hills, a range of heights in 4-billion-year-old Gusev Crater where NASAs Spirit rover landed in January 2004.

Spirit found evidence that the region had a watery past after climbing from its touchdown point in the basin of Gusev Crater into rounded highlands named for the astronauts who died aboard the shuttle Columbia.

The rover drove 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) during its mission, and kept going after one of its wheels stopped turning. The inoperable right-front wheel dragged up white soil the rovers spectrometer determined the material was nearly pure silica and scientists linked the unexpected discovery with the presence of ancient hot springs and steam vents.

Such an environment could have hosted microbes billions of years ago, making it an ideal location to land the Mars 2020 rover, scientists said.

Spirit reached a feature named Home Plate, the remnant of a hydrovolcanic explosion involving three key ingredients for life: heat, energy and water. The Spirit rover, which functioned 25 times longer than its 90-day design life, also found outcrops of carbonate in the Columbia Hills, deposits which scientists say were emplaced during a wetter period of Martian history.

Data gathered by Spirit also indicate Gusev Crater could have periodically flooded and made shallow lakes.

Proponents of the Columbia Hills site also tout the possibility of sending the Mars 2020 rover to inspect Spirit where it bogged down in a sand pit in 2009 and likely froze its internal electronics during a frigid Martian winter. NASA last heard from Spirit in March 2010 and gave up on recovering the mission in May 2011.

Information on Spirits condition could give engineers insight into how extreme temperature swings, dust storms and possible micrometeorites affect hardware like coatings, optics, actuators and cabling on Mars, providing a bonus opportunity for a long duration exposure experiment, scientists said.

This data will aid in design of future surface systems, equipment and structures for both manned and robotic exploration of Mars, scientists wrote in a presentation backing the Columbia Hills site.

Spirit ended its mission before reaching several more geologic features scientists wanted to visit.

The other two potential targets for the Mars 2020 rover are Jezero Crater, home to an ancient river delta, and a region named Northeast Syrtis, a location that appears to be rich in layered clays with some of the oldest terrain found on Mars.

Jezero and Northeast Syrtis about 30 miles (50 kilometers) apart lie at about 18 degrees north latitude. Neither place has been explored on the surface.

Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars, NASA wrote in a description accompanying the landing site announcement. Water filled and drained away from the crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake.

Imagery obtained from NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show clear evidence of a dried-up river delta that fed a lake. Scientists think the delta deposits, which came from a watershed stretching 4,600 square miles (nearly 12,000 square kilometers), offer one of the best places on Mars to look for preserved organic matter and biomarkers in samples the rover could scoop up and store for return to Earth by a later mission.

Any organic matter that might have been in that [watershed] is going to get concentrated in an area we can explore with a rover, said Tim Goudge, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin who made the case for Jezero Crater.

That makes it easier to maybe find the needle in the haystack because youre potentially collecting lots of needles in one spot, Goudge said in a Brown University press release.

Once the Jezero lake dried up, water may have continued to flow into the crater, stacking layers of clay minerals that hardened to form sedimentary rock.

Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times, officials wrote in Saturdays announcement following the science meeting. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed sediments.

Jezero received the most votes during the landing site conclave.

Orbital observations show the nearby Northeast Syrtis site, the second-leading vote-getter, is covered in the remains of an underground hydrothermal system. Supporters of this landing destination point to scattered patches of carbonate, made from interactions between water and the mineral olivine, a process that produces hydrogen molecules, a possible energy source for microbes.

On Earth, we have evidence of these ancient lineages of bacteria that lived off of rocks in the subsurface, feeding off of chemical energy, Mustard said in Browns press release. Here we have that feedstock and there was water, so that makes it really exciting.

The age of some of the exposed rocks at Northeast Syrtis also makes for an attractive target.

The rocks we would touch down on would be 4 billion years old, older than any rocks on Earth, said Mike Bramble, a Brown graduate student who also presented at last weeks landing site meeting. So thats a chance to answer all kinds of questions about the formation of Mars and the formation of planetary surfaces in general.

All three candidate landing sites meet NASAs engineering requirements, providing a safe, relatively flat and boulder-less location for the rover to touch down on the surface.

Scientific concerns will drive mission managers recommendation of one or two primary landing sites at a future meeting. Officials at NASA Headquarters charged with a final decision are expected to endorse one of the top destinations scientists recommend.

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Scientists narrow list of landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover – Spaceflight Now

Air Force’s X-37B prepares for landing at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility – NASASpaceflight.com

February 14, 2017 by Chris Gebhardt

Not even two days after historic launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center was revived by SpaceX following retirement of the Space Shuttle, the historic Shuttle Landing Facility at the Florida spaceport is preparing toonce again host an end of mission landing as the Air Forces X-37B mini spaceplane returns from a near two year mission on orbit.

Kennedy Space Center shines as a multi-user spaceport:

The retirement of the Shuttle fleet left a rather large hole in the Kennedy Space Centers (KSCs) ability to launch and conduct human orbital space operations.

At the conclusion of the historic reusable spaceplane program, NASA vowed to transition KSC from a single-user, single rocket facility into a multi-user, multi rocket spaceport for the 21st century.

The first two steps in that plan were the initiation of reconstruction efforts of pad 39B to prepare it for the ability to launch NASAs Space Launch System rocket for Beyond Earth Orbit missions and the 2014 agreement for a 20-year lease of pad 39A to SpaceX for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

With the final Shuttle launch from pad 39A on 8 July 2011, the pad lay dormant as reconstructive efforts took place ahead of this past weekends return of fire and thrust from rocket engines for SpaceXs static fire of the Falcon 9 rocket that will loft the SpX-10 mission to the Space Station later this week.

After Atlantis final launch from Pad A, the vehicle returned for the final landing of the Shuttle program back at the Kennedy Space Center on 21 July 2011 after which the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) has not since hosted an End Of Mission (EOM) landing of an orbital mission.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, that will change, and two of the Kennedy Space Centers iconic elements will be back in operation within two days of each other.

With Boeing building and processing its CST-100 capsule inside former OPF Bay 3 as part of NASAs Commercial Crew Transportation services contract and last weeks completion of platform installation in the VAB for SLS stacking operations, the Kennedy Space Center is truly shining as a multi-user spaceport.

Specifically for the Air Force, the ability to use the SLF at Kennedy marks what is hoped to be the first of many uses of the SLF as the primary EOM landing facility for the X-37B which the Air Force hopes to launch, land, and refurbish at KSC and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In fact, after landing, the X-37B is expected to be towed to OPF-1 for post-flight servicing operations.

OTV-4 Fourth flight for X-37B comes to an end:

The fourth flight of the Air Forces experimental X-37B spacecraft assuming a landing on Monday, 14February 2017 will clock in at 636 days and 22 hours (approximate to its anticipated landing time).

If all goes according to plan, the X-37B will approach the Kennedy Space Center for a landing no early than0800EST (1300 UTC) though this time is approximate and based on unverified orbital tracking observations of the X-37B.

Depending on the specific path the X-37B follows in its entry sequence currently understood to be a descending node entry over portions of the United States and Florida large swathes of Central Florida could be graced with twin sonic booms during the morning commute as the X-37B rather insistently heralds its arrival back home.

The ability for this fourth mission to attempt a return to the runway at Kennedy follows three highly successful, completely autonomous deorbit, entry, and landing sequences of the first three X-37B flights, which all ended with precise touchdowns at the runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.

OTV-2 and OTV-3 landed without incident following a blown tire that led to minor underbelly damage of the OTV-1 vehicle (which subsequently flew the OTV-3 mission).

With an expected mission duration of just under 637days, the fourth flight of the X-37B program will not be the longest with that distinction going to the OTV-3 flight which lasted 674 days and 22 hours.

Nonetheless, the mission will resoundingly beat the OTV-2 mission duration of 468 days and 14 hours and the OTV-1 mission duration of 224 days and 9 hours.

Moreover, the prolonged duration of the current and previous X-37B missions highlight the secretive nature of the spaceplane, its missions, end its designed orbital lifetime which is currently listed as 270 days something which three of the four missions to date have shattered.

Presently, two X-37Bs are known to exist, with the first flying the OTV-1 and -3 missions and the second flying the OTV-2 and -4 (presumably) missions.

In all, each X-37B is 8.92 m (29 feet 3 inches) in length, has a 4.55 m (14 foot 11 inch) wingspan, has a height of 2.9 m (9 feet 6 inches), and has a maximum lift off weight of 4,990 kg (11,000 lbs).

The vehicles are powered by gallium arsenide solar cells with Lithium-ion batteries and contain a 2.1 x 1.2 meters (7 feet x 4 feet) payload bay.

In preparation for landing at Kennedy, teams practiced landing drills and post-landing safing operations as well as emergency drills at the SLF last week.

The X-37B landing also helps explain the until now curious delay to SpaceXs launch of the SpX-10 resupply mission for the International Space Station which had originally been scheduled for the 14th as well the opening day of the X-37Bs landing attemptsat Kennedy.

When the SpaceX mission was delayed, it was stated that range assets necessary for the return to launch site landing of the Falcon 9 core stage were not available from 14-17 February, while all other range assets necessary for launch were available during that window.

While the secretive nature of the mission precludes any exact knowledge of the ground track the X-37B will take, a descending node reentry over large portions of the United States is the likely option given the landing window for the restricted air space in and around the Kennedy Space Center.

A descending node entry would lead toan earliest possiblelanding at 0800EST at Kennedy, which shouldsee the X-37B put on quite a light show for portions of the United States as it reenters the atmosphere in the early morning darkness before crossing the night-day Terminator and heading for a post-sunrise landing in Florida.

While the landing per the restriction notices originally slated to occur on 14 February, there is now evidence that the USAF has scheduled a back-upopportunity fortomorrow, 15 February.

Nonetheless, the NOTAM and flight restriction zone through 3,000 feet around the SLF extendsfrom 0800-1600L on the 14th meaning a landing is possible at any time in that window when orbital mechanics allow.

Thus, 0800 EST was only the earliest possible landing for Tuesdays attempt.

With no proven orbital ground track for OTV-4 since its maneuver last week, there are only good approximations of its suspected landing time hence the estimate of 0748-0800L for the first possible landing opportunity Tuesday.

Moreover, Tuesday was just theopen day of several landing possibilities as the EasternRange, per SpaceXs slip from today to the 18th, was in conflict from 14-17 Februaryshowing that X-37Bs opportunities to land are over days, not hours.

Additionally, after the 0800 hour passed at Kennedy, the NOTAM that was in effect was officially extended to the 15th, with the same general 0800-1600L restriction times.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon aimed at deflecting the interest in the potential landing, citing it the program was conducting a regularly scheduled exercise. However, the NOTAMs remain in place at the time of the update.

(Images: USAF, ULA, Boeing, and NASA)

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Air Force’s X-37B prepares for landing at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility – NASASpaceflight.com

New Horizons posters, studies, to be presented at Lunar and Planetary Science Conference – SpaceFlight Insider

Laurel Kornfeld

February 14th, 2017

Zooming in on Plutos pattern of pits, as seen by New Horizons. Image Credit: NASA / JHU-APL / SwRI

Seven poster sessions and seven studies based on data returned by the New Horizons mission will be presented at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which will be held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 2024 of this year (2017).

Centered on Pluto and its moons, the Kuiper Belt, and KBOs, the 14 presentations are humorously titled New Horizons Views of Pluto and Charon: So Long, and Thanks for All the Bits.

The posters will be displayed on Tuesday, March 21, at 5:30 p.m. CDT in the Town Center Exhibit Arena, while the papers will be presented on Wednesday, March 22, between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. CDT in the Montgomery Ballroom.

William McKinnon and Adrienn Luspay-Kuti are chairing the paper presentation event.

Data from NASAs New Horizons mission indicates that at least two (and possibly all four) of Plutos small moons may be the result of mergers between still smaller moons. If this discovery is borne out by further analysis, it could provide important new clues to the formation of the Pluto system. Image & Caption Credit: NASA / JHU-APL / SwRI

Poster sessions include the following:

This annotated version (enhanced) includes an inset diagram showing Charons north pole, equator, and central meridian, with the features highlighted. Image & Caption Credit: NASA / JHU-APL / SwRI

Paper presentations are as follows:

The posters and papers come just after the New Horizons team was awarded the NASA Group Achievement Award, which recognized over 600 people for developing the spacecraft and working on the mission.

Ralph Semmel, director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, emphasized that unlike many other awards given to the mission team, which focused on specific aspects of the mission, this one acknowledged teamwork by the group as a whole.

This team has worked flawlessly for long periods of time, and very few people understand what it takes to do that, said NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green. That takes dedication; that takes concentration, [and] that takes everything each and every one of you have to have to burn a hole in steel. Thats what puts you above everything else.

The awards were presented at JHU-APL on January 19, the 11th anniversary of New Horizons launch.

New Horizons team members give the Pluto salute after the NASA Group Achievement Award presentation at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory on Jan. 19 the 11th anniversary of the launch that sent New Horizons toward Pluto and Kuiper Belt. Photo Credit: NASA / JHU-APL / SwRI

Tagged: Charon Lunar and Planetary Science Conference NASA New Horizons Pluto 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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New Horizons posters, studies, to be presented at Lunar and Planetary Science Conference – SpaceFlight Insider

Space Adventures, Ltd. | Zero Gravity Flight

Aboard a specially modified Boeing 727-200, G-FORCE ONE, weightlessness is achieved by doing aerobatic maneuvers known as parabolas. Specially trained pilots perform these aerobatic maneuvers which are not simulated in any way. ZERO-G passengers experience true weightlessness.

Before starting a parabola, G-FORCE ONEflies level to the horizon at an altitude of 24,000 feet. The pilots then begins to pull up, gradually increasing the angle of the aircraft to about 45 to the horizon reaching an altitude of 34,000 feet. During this pull-up, passengers will feel the pull of 1.8 Gs. Next the plane is pushed over to create the zero gravity segment of the parabola. For the next 20-30 seconds everything in the plane is weightless. Next a gentle pull-out is started which allows the flyers to stabilize on the aircraft floor. This maneuver is repeated 12-15 times, each taking about ten miles of airspace to perform.

In addition to achieving zero gravity, G-FORCE ONEalso flies a parabola designed to offer Lunar gravity (one sixth your weight)and Martian gravity (one third your weight). This is created by flying a larger arc over the top of the parabola.

G-FORCE ONEflies in a FAA designated airspace that is approximately 100 miles long and ten miles wide. Usually three to five parabolas are flown consecutively with short periods of level flight between each set.

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Space Adventures, Ltd. | Zero Gravity Flight

Fire returns to flame trench at Apollo-era launch pad in Florida – Spaceflight Now

Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

Nine Merlin engines ignited and throttled up to nearly 2 million pounds of thrust Sunday during a brief hold-down firing of SpaceXs Falcon 9 rocket, sending a plume of smoke out of the flame trench at Kennedy Space Centers historic launch pad 39A as the company preps for a space station cargo mission next weekend.

The Merlin 1D engines on the rockets first stage were programmed to fire for about three-and-a-half seconds, reaching full power with around 1.7 million pounds of thrust as the Falcon 9 booster remained affixed to the seaside launch complex.

Onlookers at Kennedy Space Center reported visible venting of super-chilled liquid oxygen vapors from the rocket leading up to the static fire test, then a white cloud of rocket exhaust rushing out of the north side of the launch pad as the Merlin engines ignited at 4:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT).

SpaceX confirmed a few minutes later that the static fire was successfully completed, and engineers are reviewing data collected during the test.

Sensors in each engine were to measure many performance parameters during the brief ignition at the launch pad. Hold-down restraints kept the rocket on the ground.

The hotfire test marked the first time a rocket ignited at pad 39A since July 8, 2011, when the final space shuttle mission blasted off there. The launch complex sat dormant for three years until SpaceX signed a 20-year lease to take over the pad in 2014.

The milestone static fire test is a major step leading to SpaceXs first-ever launch from pad 39A scheduled for next Saturday, Feb. 18, with a Dragon supply ship carrying 5,266 pounds (2,389 kilograms) of equipment and experiments to the International Space Station.

If the rocket takes off Feb. 18, the Dragon spacecraft will reach the research lab in orbit Feb. 20.

It will be SpaceXs first resupply launch to the space station since last July, before a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the Complex 40 launch pad at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The explosion grounded the Falcon 9 rocket for the rest of 2016, and left Complex 40 with significant damage requiring repairs.

Preparations at pad 39A took on a feverish pace in the months since the Sept. 1 explosion at pad 40, which sits on Air Force property a few miles south of pad 39A.

The crucial static fire test doubled as a check of the rockets readiness for flight and the function of the launch pads fueling, telemetry and water deluge systems, all of which were overhauled by SpaceX in recent months.

With the test completed, ground crews will lower the rocket and attach the Dragon cargo freighter for launch next weekend.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceXs vice president of flight reliability, said Wednesday that testing of the new ground systems at 39A was nearly complete, allowing managers to move ahead with rollout of the rocket.

This is a huge pad, Koenigsmann said. The runs from the LOX (liquid oxygen) farm and the fuel farm down to the launch head are huge. The transporter-erector is huge. Its like one-and-a-half million pounds of steel, and (it has) so much technology because this thing controls all the interfaces (with the rocket).

The transporter-erector will carry rockets from the hangar up the incline to the pad, then lift the vehicles vertical. The rocket carrier was observed vertical at pad 39A in the last few weeks during testing.

There was nothing in particular that gave us a hard time, Koenigsmann told reporters Wednesday during the Federal Aviation Administrations 20th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington. Its more like this whole thing was a huge effort, and at the end of it you want to test and test things again to make sure that theyre ready to go.

SpaceX resumed launches Jan. 14 with a successful Falcon 9 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but the companys return-to-flight in Florida has been paced by the construction at pad 39A.

NASA launched 12 Saturn 5 rockets from pad 39A during the Apollo moon program including Apollo 11 and 82 shuttle flights departed from the seaside launch complex.

But 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.

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, Koenigsmann said.

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.

Other additions 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.

The transporter-erector is big enough to do Falcon Heavy. We can launch Falcon 9 with it in the center, of course, but the Falcon Heavy drives the size of it, Koenigsmann said. You can see Its bigger than the one we used to have.

The facilitys water system has also been refurbished to provide acoustic and heat protection to the pad deck during liftoffs, and the water tower at the northeast perimeter of the pad has been repainted, now emblazoned with the SpaceX logo.

Later this year, SpaceX plans to add an access arm to pad 39As fixed service structure for astronaut crews to board a human-rated version of the Dragon spacecraft beginning in 2018. SpaceX and Boeing have contracts with NASA to develop commercial spaceships to rotate crews between Earth and the space station.

SpaceX officials intend to base crewed launches and Falcon Heavy missions from pad 39A, and flights for the U.S. military and some commercial missions will be launched from pad 40 a few miles to the south.

Pad 40 should be ready for launches again in a few months after ground teams finish clean-up and repairs following the explosion of a Falcon 9 booster there in September.

SpaceX said the construction crew working at pad 39A will move over to pad 40 in the coming weeks. A firm timetable for pad 40s availability for launches will be better known once repairs begin, but the facility could be ready by the middle of the year, officials said.

SpaceX aims to launch once every two weeks after pad 39A is inaugurated later this month, continuing with the deployment of an EchoStar communications satellite in early March, then the launch of an SES telecom payload aboard a previously-flown first stage booster later in March.

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Fire returns to flame trench at Apollo-era launch pad in Florida – Spaceflight Now

Arianespace preps 2 satellites for launch atop workhorse Ariane 5 … – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

February 13th, 2017

During final integration at the Spaceport for Flight VA235, Telkom 3S is positioned atop the Ariane 5s core cryogenic stage (photos at left and center), followed by placement of the payload fairing containing SKY Brasil-1 and the SYLDA dispenser system (photo at right). Photo(s) Credit: Arianespace

With its Launch Readiness Review complete, Arianespace continues to make preparations to launch itsfirst Ariane 5 rocket of 2017. The delivery into space of two communication satellites,SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom 3S, is scheduled for the beginning of an 86-minute launch window that opens at 4:39 p.m. EST (21:39 GMT) on Feb. 14, 2017.

Archive photo of Ariane flight VA233. Photo Credit: Stephane Corvaja / ESA

The mission, designated VA235, is being flown todeliver the two satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). The European heavy-lift vehicle is notable in its capability to deliver multiple, large satellites into orbit, allowing customers to share launch costs.

The 13,228-pound (6,000-kilogram) AT&T/DirecTV SKY Brasil-1 spacecraft will supply digital entertainment services to Brazil via DirecTVs Latin America subsidiary.

Sharing the ride to GTO inside the fairing will be the 7,826-pound (3,550-kilogram) Telkom 3S digital services satellite.

The state-owned Telkom Indonesia satellite will provide telecommunications and high-definition television services throughout the island nation.

Riding in the lower bay of the two-position SYLDApayload carrier is the Telkom 3S satellite. The third Telkom satellite to be launched by Arianespace, it was built on the Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000B2 platform and is outfitted with 24 C-band, eightextended C-band, and 10 Ku-band transponders.

Telkom 3S will ultimately be positioned at 118 degrees Eastand will provide a multitude of digital services to customers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Southeast Asia. The medium-class satellite has twin solar arrays, providing the necessary6.3 kilowatts of payload power, and has an expected on-orbit lifetime of 15 years.

The other satellite, SKY Brasil-1, will sit in SYLDAs top position. Alternately known as Intelsat 32e, the satellite was built on the Airbus Defense and Space Eurostar E3000 spacecraft architecture, a widely used and flexible satellite bus.

Using its60 Ku-band transponders, the satellite will provide servicesto Brazil and areas of the North Atlantic Ocean. After settlinginto its orbital slot at 43.1 degrees West, SKY Brasil-1 is expected to deliver digitalcontent for at least 19 years.

Arianespaces reliable Ariane 5 rocketwill be delivering the satellite duoto GTO. It is configured in its ECA arrangement for flight VA235. The heavy-lift rocket has been a mainstay of the multinational launch providerand offers a high degree of precisionwith its ability to place payloads into orbit with near meter-level accuracy.

Like NASAs now-retired Space Shuttle, the Ariane 5 makes use ofsolid-fueled boosters to supplement the mainliquid-fueled engine.

A pair of P241 solid rocket boosters will provide a combined 3.18 million pounds (14,160 kilonewtons) of thrust at liftoff. Each will burn for approximately 130 seconds, providing roughly 92 percent of the Ariane 5s liftoff thrust. Once their propellant is consumed, they will separate and fall into the Atlantic Ocean.

Supplying the remaining eightpercent of liftoff power is the core stages Vulcain 2 cryogenic engine. Burning a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the hydrolox powerplant provides 220,000 pounds (960 kilonewtons) of sea-level thrust. That increases to 310,000 pounds (1,390 kilonewtons) as it climbs into the vacuum of space.

The second stage is outfitted with a single HM7B cryogenic engine. Itsupplies 15,000 pounds (67 kilonewtons) of vacuum thrustand can operate for 945 seconds.

The mission will be broadcast live via Arianespaceswebsite. Coverage will begin 15 minutes beforethe scheduled liftoff.

An artists rendering of the SKY Brasil-1 digital television satellite, set to launch aboard an Ariane 5. Image Credit: Arianespace

Tagged: Ariane 5 ArianeSpace Guiana Space Centre Lead Stories Sky Brasil-1 Telkom 3S VA235

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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Arianespace preps 2 satellites for launch atop workhorse Ariane 5 … – SpaceFlight Insider

Teams practice for Cape Canaveral’s first launch of Minotaur 4 … – Spaceflight Now

The pathfinder vehicle stands atop Complex 46, enclosed by the mobile gantry. Credit: Ben Cooper/Spaceflight Now

CAPE CANAVERAL Three inert Peacekeeper missile stages have been stacked at Cape Canaverals Complex 46 pad, demonstrating the techniques that will be used to assemble a Minotaur 4 rocket to launch an experimental space surveillance satellite this summer.

Decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles form the basis for Minotaur 4 rockets, operated by Orbital ATK, and will deliver the majority of power to launch a small spacecraft, called SensorSat, into Earth orbit.

Launch is tentatively planned for July 15 at roughly 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT).

Known as the Operationally Responsive Space-5 mission, or ORS-5, it will be the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral.

Officials say the Cape was chosen as the launch site because it is best suited to fly the special five-stage Minotaur 4 into the desired equatorial orbit.

The payload will circle the planet in low-Earth orbit to scan the valuable region of space 22,300 miles high the geosynchronous orbital belt to spot debris and warn against collisions.

Geosynchronous orbit is where communications satellites, weather observatories and key reconnaissance platforms reside because that altitude allows the craft to fly continuously above the same part of the globe.

Many of the details about ORS-5 remain classified. But SensorSat will test technologies and reduce the risk for future space situational awareness missions.

The launch pad hosting this mission is Complex 46, a former Trident missile test site built in the 1980s for the U.S. Navy, then converted to spaceflight users in the 1990s and employed by Lockheed Martin to launch two Athena boosters including NASAs Lunar Prospector.

Space Florida, an arm of the state, now oversees the complex for commercial customers. It will be the first launch from the pad, which is on the easternmost tip of the Cape, in 18 years.

Five previous Minotaur 4 rockets have launched from Kodiak Island in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California since 2010.

The entire Minotaur family has conducted 25 missions since 2000, all successfully. Cape Canaveral will join Kodiak Island, Vandenberg and Wallops Island in Virginia as sites that have hosted launches.

Mission planners selected the Cape to launch SensorSat due to the plane change required en route to achieve the targeted 375-mile-high circular orbit at 0 degrees inclination. A Wallops-based launch could not reach such an orbit with Minotaur 4, officials said.

The successful pathfinder operations at Complex 46 were completed Sunday and punctuated with a photo op for the news media. The inert stages will be destacked beginning Monday.

The real rocket for ORS-5 will be stacked beginning about three weeks before launch. That will be followed by a week-and-a-half of pre-flight testing.

Minotaur 4 will blast off on 500,000 pounds of thrust, propelling the 193,000-pound, 78-foot-tall rocket on a half-hour trip to orbit.

After the three Peacekeeper motors burn, two commercial upper stages deliver the final pushes to reach orbital velocity and then change planes to obtain the correct inclination for ORS-5.

See earlier ORS-5 coverage.

Our Minotaur archive.

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Teams practice for Cape Canaveral’s first launch of Minotaur 4 … – Spaceflight Now

MRO data utilized for Mars 2020 landing-site selection – SpaceFlight Insider

Paul Knightly

February 11th, 2017

Artists depiction of NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) above the Red Planet. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

As scientists and engineers from around the world have gathered this week to discuss potential landing sites for NASAs Mars 2020 rover, a key piece of hardware has been central in aiding their efforts. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) arrived at Mars in 2006 and has been capturing high-resolution imagery and data about the Martian surface in the 11 years since. This data is now being used to aid in landing-site selection efforts for the Mars 2020 rover and other future missions.

While the meeting this week discussing potential landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover focused on eight candidate landing sites, MRO data has also been used to evaluate the landing sites for past robotic missions, including Phoenix and Curiosity. The data is even being used to evaluate some 45 potential exploration zones for future crewed missions.

From the point of view of evaluating potential landing sites, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the perfect spacecraft for getting all the information needed, said the workshops co-chair, Matt Golombek of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). You just cant overstate the importance of MRO for landing-site selection.

The high-resolution of data returned by the MRO enables engineers and scientists to evaluate the safety of candidate landing sites. Stereoscopic 3-D images can reveal whether slopes are too steep and help to develop terrain models that can aid in future rover operations. MRO data can also reveal the distribution of mineral deposits that are important to achieving mission objectives. These terrain and mineral models are already being used by the Curiosity and Opportunity rover teams to help plan driving routes for those rovers by guiding them to interesting targets while staying out of potentially dangerous situations.

Missions on the surface of Mars give you the close-up view, but what you see depends on where you land. MRO searches the globe for the best sites, said MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari of JPL.

These eight places on Mars are potential landing sites under consideration as the destination for the Mars 2020 rover mission. Image & Caption Credit: NASA

MRO also serves as a communications relay for present surface missions in tandem with other orbiting spacecraft. Scientists and engineers plan to utilize these communications relay capabilities to support the Mars 2020 rover. This month, it will reach and surpass the milestone of 6,000 relay sessions for Mars surface missions.

While MRO data is important to characterizing potential landing sites, the orbiter has done much more than just assisting with Martian surface operations. MRO has acquired more than 224,000 images and millions of other observations of Mars during its nearly 50,000 orbits of the planet. This large volume of data returned will surpass 300 terabyteslater this month, which is more data than has been returned from any past or present interplanetary mission combined. For perspective, that is more data than would be contained in four months of non-stop high-definition video.

Whether it is looking at the surface, the subsurface or the atmosphere of the planet, MRO has viewed Mars from orbit with unprecedented spatial resolution, and that produces huge volumes of data, said MRO Project Scientist Rich Zurek of JPL.These data are a treasure trove for the whole Mars scientific community to study as we seek to answer a broad range of questions about the evolving habitability, geology and climate of Mars.

Among the other discoveries made possible by data returned by MRO are the following:

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the orbiter took the four images used in this animated sequence, showing the same site over the time period from March 31, 2007, to April 2, 2012. The earliest of the four observations is the one in which the impact blast zone looks darkest. The space-rock impact that created this blast zone occurred sometime between September 2005 and February 2006, as bracketed by observations made with the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASAs Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The location is between two large volcanoes, named Ascraeus Mons and Pavonis Mons, in a dusty area of the Tharsis region of Mars. During the period from 2007 to 2012, winds blowing through the pass between the volcanoes darkened some regions and brightened others, probably by removing and depositing dust. The view covers an area about 1.0 mile (1.6 km) across, at 7 North latitude, 248 East longitude. North is toward the top. GIF & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Tagged: Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars 2020 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter NASA The Range

Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

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MRO data utilized for Mars 2020 landing-site selection – SpaceFlight Insider

Commercial spaceflight sector receiving 10m UK government boost – Market Business News

Her Majestys government plans to make 10 million of commercial spaceflight funding available to projects that will launch people and satellites into space from the United Kingdom. It is also introducing new legislation to regulate commercial spaceflight by 2020.

In a recent announcement about the plans, universities and science minister Jo Johnson says:

Spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation. It provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country.

The UK government is inviting businesses developing spaceports and technology for operating commercial spaceflights to apply for funding assistance. Image is of United Kingdom seen from Sentinel-3A satellite Credit: ESA

Commercial spaceflight market 25 billion

Johnson says the commercial spaceflight market is estimated to be worth around 25 billion over the next 20 years and the governments ambition is for the UK to have 10 percent of the market by 2030.

Businesses developing spaceports and technology for operating commercial spaceflights are invited to submit proposals to access the funding.

In its call for proposals, the government says the aim is to make the UK the first country in Europe where operators can launch, horizontally or vertically, small satellites into orbit or sub-orbital flights for science and tourism.

Johnson says a dedicated Spaceflight Bill is also due to be published within the next few weeks.

Small satellite market growing

The global market for small satellites is developing rapidly. Clusters of hundreds of microsatellites are due to be launched over the next decade to provide telecommunications and enhanced imaging for a range of applications.

Plans at organizational, national and regional level are already forming to create the technology and low-cost services for putting these satellites into space.

For instance, 16 space agencies and universities from nine Asian countries including Japan recently formed an Asian microsatellite consortium.

Human spaceflight

Meanwhile, innovative companies are also working on affordable ways to put people into sub-orbital space whether for the purposes of scientific research, tourism, or high-speed travel.

One example is Virgin Galactic (VG), who recently carried out their first successful glide test of the VSS Unity, their first spaceship to be built in-house.

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation says the flight, which was completed at Mojave Air & Spaceport in California in the United States, brings VG one step closer to their goal of making access to space frequent and safe.

The government has set up a webpage for news, announcements, and guidance on commercial spaceflight in the UK.

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Commercial spaceflight sector receiving 10m UK government boost – Market Business News