Tiny Probes Hold Big Promise for Future NASA Missions

This picture shows the entry probe and the metal outer shell. The metal shell allows the probe to be connected with the supply ship and also facilitates the probe to be released during break-up of the supply spacecraft during reentry. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Sometimes to find the best solution to a big problem, you have to start small.

A team of NASA engineers has been working on a new type of Thermal Protection System (TPS) for spacecraft that would improve upon the status quo.

Having seen success in the laboratory with these new materials, the next step is to test in space.

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Video: Atlas V Launches Cygnus to Space Station

Video Caption: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff was at 11:11 a.m. EDT. The Orbital ATK CRS-7 Cygnus spacecraft on a commercial resupply services mission to deliver 7,600 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.

U.S. National Lab Research Payloads Headed for ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle launched on its seventh cargo resupply mission (CRS-7) to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 18 aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V vehicle, carrying more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored investigations.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is chartered to facilitate research in the microgravity environment that benefits life on Earth. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is leading the effort in partnership with NASA, industry, other government organizations, and academia to manage and promote the best use of the ISS National Lab.

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Cygnus Packed with Experiments to Support Future Exploration

On Feb. 7, 2017, in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, technicians and engineers load thousands of pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific research materials aboard a Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized cargo module for the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill White)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The International Space Station serves as the world’s leading orbital laboratory where crews conduct cutting-edge research and technology development. A crucial resupply line of spacecraft keeps work going that will enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

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Atlas V Set for Liftoff on Tuesday Morning

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft for Orbital ATK and NASA.

The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Tuesday, April 18 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The April 18 launch window is 11:11-11:41 a.m. EDT.  Live programming will begin at 10 a.m. EDT; webcast available at www.ulalaunch.com

Today’s L-2 forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Launch Forecast Summary:

  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 10%
  • Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds
  • Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 20%
  • Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds and Thick Clouds

Video of Starliner Emergency Escape System Testing

Video Caption: United Launch Alliance recently tested an emergency evacuation system at Space Launch Complex 41. NASA also renamed its Radiological Control Center in honor of Randy Scott, a health physicist and Kennedy’s radiation protection officer.

ULA Slashes Atlas V Price

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

ULA has cut the price of its least expensive launch vehicle, the Atlas V, by more than one third.

“We’re seeing that price is even more important than it had been in the past,” Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, or ULA, said during an interview at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“We’re dropping the cost of Atlas almost every day. Atlas is now down more than a third in its cost,” Bruno said.

As of December 2016, a baseline Atlas 5 rocket launch was selling for about $109 million, though satellite operators can make up at least half that cost by getting more favorable insurance rates and other factors, including an on-time launch, ULA has said.

In contrast, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, lists the base price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch on its website at $62 million.

Read the full story.

ULA Lays off 48 Employees at Vandenberg

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) plans to lay off 48 employees that work for its operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ULA launches Atlas V and Delta IV rockets from the coastal base.

“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers, while we maintain our focus on mission success,” spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a written statement.

“As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals. We hope to accomplish the majority of the 2017 reductions through voluntary layoffs….

The jobs will end June 1, according to the letter, and include both union and non-union employees. Layoffs are expected to be permanent.

Affected employees currently hold assorted jobs, including technicians and engineers.

Read the full story.

ULA Reschedules Cyngus Launch for April 18

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., April 3, 2017 (ULA PR) – The launch of the ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft for Orbital ATK and NASA is scheduled for April 18.

While completing testing for a ground support hydraulic condition discovered during prelaunch testing, a different issue with a booster hydraulic line was observed. The team has developed a plan to resolve the issue and is moving forward with launch vehicle processing. The Atlas V and Cygnus spacecraft remain secure.

United Launch Alliance Completes Crew Emergency Egress System

CST-100 Starliner crew emergency egress system. (Credit: Boeing)

ULA and Terra-Nova Zipline provide NASA and commercial astronauts with safe, new generation egress option 

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., April 2, 2017 (ULA PR) – The final test of the Emergency Egress System (EES) was conducted recently, signifying the completion of another United Launch Alliance (ULA) milestone supporting NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The EES was developed in support of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule and is a means of rapid egress for astronauts in case of an anomaly.

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ULA’s Delta IV Launches U.S. Air Force Satellite

Delta IV rocket launches the WGS-9 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., March 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on March 18 at 8:18 p.m. EST.

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SpaceX Wins U.S. Air Force Launch Contract

The Autonomous Flight Safety System first flew from the Eastern Range on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 Feb. 19, 2017. The use of AFSS reduces range space lift costs through reductions in range equipment maintenance and upgrades. (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX a contract worth $96,500,490 to launch a GPS III satellite aboard a Falcon 9 booster.

The service announced the contract on a DOD procurement website on Tuesday. The announcement gives a completion date of April 30, 2019.

“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with two offers received,” the announcement states. United Launch Alliance (ULA) is the only other company with launch vehicles certified to fly payloads of this class.

The is the second contract the U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX for a GPS III launch. ULA did not submit a bid for the previous award.

A Look at Launches in 2016

Atlas V launches the NROL-61 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space
Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

2016 Launch Events

Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.

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NASA Awards ULA Contract for Joint Polar Satellite System-2 Mission

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected United Launch Services LLC (ULS) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Launch is currently targeted for 2021 on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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ULA Atlas V Lofts NRO Payload Into Orbit

Atlas V lifts off (Credit: ULA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.,, March 1, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 March 1 at 9:50 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense.
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