Paz Radar-Imaging Satellite Heads to Polar Orbit, Mr. Steven Attempts Fairing Recovery

The Upgraded Falcon 9 spears away from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo Credit: SpaceX

Four launches within the first eight weeks of the year is an impressive accomplishment, as SpaceX successfully lofted Spain’s Paz civil/military radar-imaging satellite into low-Earth orbit, earlier today (Thursday, 22 February), from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Liftoff of the Upgraded Falcon 9 occurred on time at 6:17 a.m. PST. Following a spectacular 2017, which saw 18 launches from the East and West Coasts, 2018 has begun in fine fashion, with the maiden voyage of the long-awaited Falcon Heavy and the successful delivery of the SES-16/GovSat-1 communications satellite last month, together with the secretive Zuma payload for an undisclosed U.S. Government entity, the exact fate of which will likely remain undisclosed. As intended, the reused first stage of today’s booster—the last of the Block 3 variant of the Upgraded Falcon 9, which previously saw service on last August’s Formosat-5 mission—had been stripped of its landing legs and was not recovered.

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NASA's Next Exoplanet-Hunter, TESS, Arrives at Kennedy Space Center Ahead of Launch

Artist’s illustration of TESS in space. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA is getting closer to taking the next big step in exoplanet-hunting – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) space telescope has just arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for launch no earlier than April 16. It was built and tested during 2017 at Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, and now will be readied for launch in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at Kennedy. This is the same clean room used for the Cassini, New Horizons, Mars rovers, OSIRIS-REx and other missions. TESS will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Complex 40 launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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Incredible Journey: Opportunity Rover Reaches 5,000-Sol Milestone on Mars

Martian dawn as seen by Opportunity on sol 4,499 (Feb. 15, 2018). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ./Texas A&M

NASA’s Opportunity rover has just crossed another amazing threshold – passing the 5,000-sol mark on Mars. That is a phenomenal achievement, considering that the plucky little machine was designed for a hopeful lifetime of at least 90 sols (a sol is a Martian day, just slightly longer than an Earth day). To put it another way, Opportunity landed way back in January 2004, and the mission would be considered a great success if it lasted for several months in the harsh Martian climate. But now here it is 2018, and it is still going!

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SpaceX's Long-Awaited Falcon 9 'Block 5' Heads to Texas for Testing

The first Block 5 variant of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, their final variant of the booster, was seen traveling on I-8 in Yuma, AZ this weekend en route to the company’s testing grounds in McGregor, TX. Photo Courtesy: Alison Morgan via u/tvgenius on Reddit (used with permission)

SpaceX’s long awaited first “Block 5” variant of their workhorse Falcon 9 rocket was seen making its way to the company’s testing grounds in McGregor, Texas this weekend, after being spotted by Alison Morgan and shared on Reddit by friend u/tvgenius heading eastbound on Interstate-8 in Yuma, Arizona.

Block 5 is a big deal because it represents the culmination of years of development on the Falcon 9. It’s SpaceX’s last significant update to the booster, and will incorporate many changes to allow SpaceX to refurbish and reuse the rockets much faster, and fly more missions with a single booster, all while keeping costs down.

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'Beautiful, Beautiful Moment': Ten Years Since Europe's Columbus Lab Arrived at Space Station

Spacewalker Rex Walheim works to outfit the exterior of Europe’s Columbus lab during STS-122, which launched ten years ago, this week. Photo Credit: NASA, via Joachim Becker/SpaceFacts.de

Ten years ago, this month, Space Shuttle Atlantis sprang from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, to kickstart the final phase of International Space Station (ISS) construction. A decade since the first elements of the football-field-sized outpost had been placed into orbit, the core structure was in place, ready to accept the pressurized modules of the international partners. First up was Columbus, the largest single contribution of the European Space Agency (ESA).

More than 22.5 feet (6.8 meters) in length and 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter, it would be permanently attached to the starboard port of the station’s Harmony node and, over its first decade of operational life, saw no fewer than 13 European astronauts from France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom float through its hatch, support a broad range of scientific research and display their national flags in its roomy interior. In its ten years, Columbus has supported more than 1,700 discrete experiments and an estimated 800 terabytes of data has passed through its Data Management System (DMS).

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Don't Freak Out Sunday California, It's Just SpaceX Launching the PAZ Satellite

The launch of Iridium-4 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 22, 2017, from Vandenberg AFB, CA, caused a lot of clueless people to freak out as the booster was an amazing sight in sunset’s fading twilight. Photo: SpaceX

UPDATE FEB 17:

 – The Falcon 9 was rolled out to its launch pad this morning, but was then rolled back into its hangar a short while ago. SpaceX says they need additional time to perform final checkouts of the rocket’s upgraded fairing, and due to “mission requirements” liftoff is now targeting Feb 21.

ORIGINAL STORY BELOW:

Four launches within the first 50 days of the year is an impressive accomplishment, and that’s exactly what SpaceX is aiming to do in dawn’s twilight Sunday morning, Feb. 18, targeting liftoff of their last Block-3 variant Falcon 9 rocket to launch a satellite for Spain at 6:16 a.m. PST (14:16 UTC) from SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Sunrise will occur at 6:44 a.m., which means the Falcon 9 will launch in darkness, but should ascend into sunlight as it roars through the upper atmosphere on the power of its nine Merlin 1D+ engines to deploy the $180 million, 3,000-pound (1,400 kg) Paz radar-imaging satellite into low-Earth orbit. A rideshare payload of two SpaceX Starlink test satellites for the worldwide internet program are also onboard the rocket.

Continue reading Don’t Freak Out Sunday California, It’s Just SpaceX Launching the PAZ Satellite

U.S.-Japanese Spacewalking Team Wraps Up Replacement of Canadarm2 'Hands'

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai spent five hours and 57 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) on U.S. EVA-48. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

The spectacular sight of the Sun rising from behind the limb of the Home Planet was closely mirrored by the “circle of the Sun” on the sleeve of an astronaut’s space suit earlier today (Friday, 16 February), when Japan’s fourth spacewalker ventured outside the International Space Station (ISS). Astronaut Norishige Kanai—who launched to the orbiting outpost for his first mission, last December—spent five hours and 57 minutes stowing and repositioning a pair of Latching End Effectors (LEEs) for the 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm. Norishige’s spacewalk with seasoned NASA veteran Mark Vande Hei comes a little over two decades since Takao Doi became Japan’s first spacewalker and the first to wear the white flag, emblazoned with the blood-red rising Sun on his sleeve. Today’s excursion was the third EVA of 2018, following one U.S. spacewalk last month and a record-breaking Russian spacewalk, earlier this month, involving Expedition 54 cosmonauts Aleksandr Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov.

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Former Bomber Commander, Second European ISS Skipper and Cuban-American Flight Surgeon Prepare for June Launch to Space Station

The Soyuz MS-09 crew (from left) comprises Alexander Gerst of Germany, Sergei Prokopiev of Russia and U.S. astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor. Photo Credit: Michael Galindo/AmericaSpace

Three spacefarers from three nations, including a former Russian Air Force strategic bomber pilot, the second European commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and a Cuban-American flight surgeon recently moved from the backup to the prime crew, assembled at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, earlier today (Wednesday, 14 February), to discuss their upcoming five-month expedition.

Veteran astronaut Alexander Gerst and “rookies” Sergei Prokopiev and Serena Auñón-Chancellor will launch aboard Soyuz MS-09 in early June and initially join Expedition 56, before rotating into the core of Expedition 57 and returning to Earth in November. During their stay, the crew are expected to welcome as many as four unpiloted cargo visitors—two Russian Progress ships, a SpaceX Dragon and a Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)—together with the long-awaited unpiloted maiden test-flights of the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner.

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New Astronaut Training and Mars Base 1 at KSC Visitor Complex Offers Incredible Experience

Performing some tasks on an ISS truss in a microgravity trainer at the new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Photo: Alan Walters / AmericaSpace

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSVC) recently opened its new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) Center, giving the public a really fun and interesting interactive learning opportunity to not only train like an astronaut for Mars missions, but to also simulate what a day living and working on Mars would be like, while also helping with real NASA research along the way.

From floating in microgravity chairs simulating spacewalking activities, to conducting surface missions on Mars in Virtual Reality, strapping in to a full-motion Mars Landing and Rover Simulator, launching on NASA’s Orion Capsule for docking with a Mars Transfer Vehicle or conducting a full day of operations on the Red Planet, the new ATX and Mars Base 1 is well worth spending a couple days at for any space geek or aspiring astronaut, young and old.

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First to the Moon: Upcoming Documentary Film Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

Due for release later in 2018, “First to the Moon” traces the lives of the Apollo 8 crew and their remarkable voyage to the Moon. Image Credit: Paul Hildebrandt/FirstMoonMovie.com

“If I have seen further,” the great English scientist Sir Isaac Newton once remarked, writing about the Dutch philosopher and physicist René Descartes, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In 2018, the world will recognize three giants of our age, as we observe 50 years since the epochal Apollo 8 mission, which saw a centuries-long human dream of traveling to the Moon finally turn to reality. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were the first men to ride the gigantic Saturn V rocket, the first to depart Earth’s gravitational well, the first to cross 240,000 miles (370,000 km) of cislunar space and the first to behold our nearest celestial neighbor, up close and personal, in readiness for an eventual piloted landing. Even more significantly, their jaw-dropping glimpse of “Earthrise”, behind the barren lunar limb, and a haunting reading of the opening verse of Genesis, offered a true perspective of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Five decades later, director/producer Paul Hildebrandt and producer Jon Martin will explore the audacious journey of Apollo 8 and the lives of the three men who accomplished it. Through restored NASA archival films, the National Archives and the astronauts themselves, their KickStarter-funded film First to the Moon aims to transport its audience back in time through the upbringing of Borman, Lovell and Anders to their selection as astronauts and their voyage to lunar orbit. This visually and musically enthralling film, told through archival film and often unseen photography, together with animated representations, is accompanied by an orchestral score from the film’s composer and live musicians, generating “a truly cinematic experience”.

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