NASA Deep Space Exploration Systems Look Ahead to Busy 2018


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Engineers preparing NASA’s deep space exploration systems to support missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond are gearing up for a busy 2018. The agency aims to complete the manufacturing of all the major hardware by the end of the year for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), which will pave the road for future missions with astronauts.

Planes, trains, trucks and ships will move across America and over oceans to deliver hardware for assembly and testing of components for the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare the Ground Systems infrastructure. Testing will take place from the high seas to the high skies and in between throughout the year and across the country, not only in support of EM-1, but also for all subsequent missions.
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SpaceX Launches Zuma But Satellite Fate Unknown; Falcon Heavy Rolled Out for Static Fire

Falcon 9 first stage launches Zuma spacecraft (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX launched a secret U.S. military satellite code named Zuma into space on Sunday evening. The company successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 back at Cape Canaveral.

However, exactly what happened to the mysterious satellite remains a mystery nearly 24 hours after the launch. SpaceX says an analysis of data indicate the Falcon 9’s second stage performed nominally.

However, there are unconfirmed rumors that the satellite was lost. Rumors include the spacecraft being dead on orbit after separation from Falcon 9’s second stage, or re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere still attached to the stage.

Northrop Grumman, which built the spacecraft, is not commenting on the flight. The identity of the government agency the spacecraft was built for is not known. So, nobody from the government has confirmed whether the launch succeeded or not.

Meanwhile, SpaceX rolled out the first Falcon Heavy booster to Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center today. The company plans to conduct a brief static test of the rocket’s 27 first-stage engines for the first time. The rocket is set to make its maiden flight later this month from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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Final Frontier Design and Starfighters Aerospace Complete System Definition Review

SFA Director of Flight Operations Piercarlo Ciacchi prior to vehicle integration testing with the F-104. (Credit: Final Frontier Design)

NEW YORK, December 14, 2017 (FFD PR) — Starfighters Aerospace (SFA) and Final Frontier Design (FFD) are pleased to announce the completion of System Definition Review for integration of a space suit into the F-104 Starfighter aircraft. The review marks the first physical fitting of the FFD space suit in the F-104, along with a baseline definition of all systems required for flight. The review took place at Starfighter’s offices at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, in November 2017.

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Defense Act Calls for Upgrades to Eastern & Western Launch Ranges

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates the Department of Defense to undertaken a program to modernize the infrastructure and improve support services on the Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California. The measure, passed by Congress, awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

“The program….shall include investments to improve operations at the Eastern and Western Ranges that may benefit all users, to enhance the overall capabilities of ranges, to improve safety, and  to reduce the long-term costs of operations and maintenance,” the bill reads.

The act also includes measures to improve processes across both ranges to “minimize the burden on launch providers” and “improvements in transparency, flexibility, and, responsiveness for launch scheduling.”

The NDAA allows the DOD to consult with current and anticipated users of the two ranges and to pursue partnerships if appropriate. The DOD is given 120 days after enactment of the act to submit a report on planned improvements to congressional defense committees.

The commanders of the U.S. Air Force space wings that run the ranges have said they need more funding to maintain and upgrade aging infrastructure as they cope with a surge in commercial launches. The failure of Congress to pass budgets in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and automatic budgets mandated under sequestration have also hindered long-term planning, the commanders said.

The Eastern Range, which handles launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, was recently closed for two weeks to tackle 85 high-priority maintenance projects. The western range at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California uses radar systems that were built in the 1950’s.

A Tale of 2 Launch Ranges: The Best & Worst of Times

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the MUOS-4 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week.

The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) has launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.

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NASA Partners with Technology Innovators to Enable Future Exploration


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative (ECI) program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early-career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

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Falcon Heavy Debut Slips to January

Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has slipped the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy booster to January. The rocket, whose first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 cores with 27 engines, will lift off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The flight will be preceded by a hold-down test on the launch pad in which all 27 first stage engines will be fired.

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ULA, SpaceX Reschedule Launches

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18.  The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.

November 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 6
Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China
Launch Time: Unknown

November 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: Meteor M2-1 weather satellite; Spire weather CubeSats; Telesat experimental communications satellite
Launch Site: Vostochny
Launch Time: 0541:46 GMT (12:41:46 a.m. EST)

SpaceX & Orbital ATK Launches Set for Next Week

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

SpaceX and Orbital ATK are scheduled to conduct launches on opposite sides of the country on Monday and Tuesday.

SpaceX will start things off on Monday with the Falcon 9 launch of the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for KTsat. The flight will be conducted from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch window is 3:34–5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT). This will be SpaceX’s third launch in October and 16th launch in 2017.

An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C booster is set to launch six SkySat Earth observation satellites for Planet and several CubeSats on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. PDT/2137 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Minotaur-C is an upgraded version of the Taurus satellite launcher.

Space Station Unit to Study Genetics of Model Organisms

Inside the Spectrum prototype unit, plant seedlings in a Petri plate are exposed to blue excitation lighting for the green fluorescent protein. The device will allow scientists to observe how different genes are turned on and off while the organisms grow in space. (Credit: NASA)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Scientists and engineers are developing new hardware destined for the International Space Station to support experiments demonstrating how different organisms, such as plants, microbes or worms, develop under conditions of microgravity. Results from the Spectrum project will shed light on which living things are best suited for long-duration flights into deep space.

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Operation Zuma: SpaceX to Launch Mystery Payload

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

Federal regulatory filings indicate SpaceX plans to launch a mysterious payload as early as Nov. 10 in a previously-undisclosed mission.

It is unusual for such a mission to remain secret so close to launch, and there has been no public claim of ownership for the payload — codenamed Zuma — from any government or commercial institution.

SpaceX did not respond to questions on the mission Saturday, but an application submitted by the launch company to the Federal Communications Commission says the flight will use a Falcon 9 booster launched from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The existence of the mission was first reported on NASASpaceflight.com Saturday, but the FCC filings are public record….

Two filings concern the secretive launch next month, one for the Falcon 9’s liftoff and climb into orbit from Florida’s Space Coast, and another for the first stage booster’s planned return to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for refurbishment and reuse.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon 9 a total of 15 times in 2017. Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule shows that SpaceX has five more flights scheduled for this year, not including the Zuma mission. Below is the schedule with the Zuma flight included.

Remaining SpaceX Launches for 2017

10/30/17: Falcon 9 — Koreasat 5A — KSC
11/10/17: Falcon 9 — Zuma — KSC
Late November: Falcon 9 — Iridum Next 31-40 — Vandenberg
11/28/17: Falcon 9 — CRS-13 — CCAFS
4th Quarter: Falcon 9 — Hispasat 30W-6 — CCAFS
Late 2017: Falcon Heavy Demo Flight — KSC

SpaceX Orbits Comsats, Progress Resupply Launch Scrubbed

Soyuz rocket with Progress 68 resupply ship. (Credit: Roscosmos)

SpaceX successfully launched the SES 11 and EchoStar 105 communication satellites on Wednesday evening from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket landed on an off-shore drone ship.

Meanwhile, the launch of Progress 68 resupply ship was scrubbed from Baikonur for an unknown reason. The launch of the Soyuz rocket has been rescheduled for no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (0846 GMT).

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SpaceX to Launch Comsats From Vandenberg on Busy Monday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

Early risers in Southern California will be able to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch 10 Iridium Next communication satellites on Monday morning. The flight from Vandenberg is set to take off at 5:37 a.m. PDT (8:37 a.m. EDT/1237 GMT).

The SpaceX mission will be the second of three launches planned for Monday and Tuesday. China is scheduled to launch a remote sensing satellite for Venezuela and Japan is planning to orbit a navigation satellite.

SpaceX is also scheduled to launch two communications satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday evening.

October 9

Long March 2D
Payload: Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite
Launch time: Approximately 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT)
Launch site: Jiuquan, China

Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 21-30 communication satellites
Launch time: 8:37 a.m. EDT; 5:37 a.m. PDT (1237 GMT )
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

H-2A
Payload: Michibiki 4 navigation satellite
Launch time: Approx. 6:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida