News Article | February 15, 2017
In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, thousands of pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific research materials are prepared for loading aboard a Cygnus spacecraft's pressurized cargo module (PCM) for the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission to the International Space Station. Scheduled to launch on March 19, 2017, the commercial resupply services mission will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
News Article | February 17, 2017
(AP) — The launch pad used to send Americans to the moon and shuttle astronauts into orbit is roaring back into action. Dormant for nearly six years, NASA's Launch Complex 39A should see its first commercial flight this weekend. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will use it to hoist supplies to the International Space Station. Saturday morning's planned launch will be SpaceX's first from Florida since a devastating rocket explosion at a neighboring pad last summer. The accident prompted SpaceX to whip 39A into shape sooner than anticipated under its lease with NASA. The pad wrecked in the Sept. 1 accident remains unusable. A brief rundown on historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center: NASA built 39A, as it's commonly known, in the mid-1960s for the monstrous Saturn V moon rockets. It was first used in 1967 for an unmanned test flight, followed by another early the next year. Next came the astronauts, with Apollo 8 soaring to the moon right before Christmas 1968. SpaceX chief Elon Musk noted late last week via Instagram, "We are honored to be allowed to use it." The crescendo came on July 16, 1969, as Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins embarked on the first manned moon landing. All six Apollo moon-landings originated from here, as did close-call Apollo 13. Columbia made the first space shuttle flight from this pad on April 12, 1981, while Atlantis closed out the program from the same spot on July 8, 2011. This will be the 95th rocket launch from 39A. It was the departure point for 82 space shuttle flights and 11 Apollo missions, as well as the unmanned 1973 launch of Skylab, NASA's original space station. One flight resulted in casualties. As Columbia lifted off on Jan. 16, 2003, foam insulation from the external fuel tank broke off and gouged the left wing. Columbia and its crew were lost 16 days later during re-entry. SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA in 2014, beating out another tech billionaire's rocket company, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. Renovation work was accelerated after SpaceX's Sept. 1 rocket explosion a few miles away at Launch Complex 40 on Air Force property. The accident occurred during fueling for a prelaunch test. It is from pad 39A that SpaceX plans to launch Falcon rockets with space station-bound astronauts for NASA as early as next year. The company also might send spacecraft and, ultimately, crews to Mars from this location as well. Just a mile to the north, Launch Complex 39B is the lesser-known, lesser-used twin. Apollo 10 christened 39B in 1969. In the shuttle era, Challenger inaugurated the pad on Jan. 28, 1986. The doomed flight with schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe lasted 73 seconds. In all, 53 shuttle missions began from this pad, for a total of 59 launches of all types. It was last used in 2009 for an unmanned test flight of NASA's Ares rocket, canceled soon afterward. NASA is transforming 39B for its yet-to-fly Space Launch System megarocket, intended to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit.
News Article | February 19, 2017
Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. successfully launched its second rocket in as many months on Sunday, bringing it a 10th of the way to its goal of deploying 20 to 24 rockets this year. The Falcon 9 rocket that launched SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on Sunday separated minutes after liftoff and landed upright on Earth in its designated area. SpaceX expects to launch a “flight proven,” or reused, Falcon 9 rocket for the first time this spring. “Baby came back,” Musk tweeted on Sunday morning. The company has designed its rockets to be reused, a key part of its effort to drive down costs and make colonizing Mars possible. The launch was SpaceX’s first from historic “39A,” the storied complex at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kennedy Space Center in Florida that was home to the famed Apollo missions. It was also the company’s second since a fireball destroyed a different rocket and its payload on a Florida launch pad in September. SpaceX, which completed just eight missions in 2016, successfully returned to the skies last month with the delivery of 10 communications satellites into orbit. The rocket is ferrying about 5,500 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, NASA said in a statement. The payload includes an experiment that will aim to better define how some bacteria become resistant to drugs, and one that will aim to help scientists understand how molecules known as monoclonal antibodies work in the body. The launch was halted Saturday about 13 seconds before its scheduled liftoff because of an issue with the second-stage engine. SpaceX has contracts with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration valued at $4.2 billion to resupply the Space Station using its unmanned Dragon spacecraft and ultimately to ferry astronauts to the station from the U.S. with a version of Dragon that’s capable of carrying crews. The Government Accountability Office said Thursday in a report that SpaceX and competitor Boeing Co. won’t be certified this year to send astronauts to space and may be delayed into 2019 because of potential safety hazards. Musk, who’s also CEO of Tesla Inc., founded SpaceX 15 years ago with the goal of sending humans to Mars. The closely-held company makes rockets at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and has contracts to launch commercial satellites as well as fly missions for NASA and the U.S. military.
News Article | February 18, 2017
Elon Musk says a Donald Trump presidency is not a concern for Tesla and says eliminating ZEV credits could actually boost Tesla’s competitive advantage. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company is investigating a leak in the rocket that is set to launch in less than 24 hours. “Investigating a (very small) leak in the upper stage,” said Musk in a Tweet Friday. “If ok, will launch tomorrow.” The rocket is scheduled to launch at 10:01 a.m. EST Saturday from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon spacecraft towards the International Space Station (ISS) for its tenth cargo delivery, weighing 5,500 lbs. The Dragon spacecraft will carry science research, crew supplies and hardware, NASA said. Saturday’s planned launch comes after a successful Falcon 9 rocket launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, in which SpaceX delivered 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for the communications company Iridium. That launch was the first since a SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla. last September. The accident caused damage to the launch site and a $200 million AMOS-6 communications satellite from Israeli company Spacecom. If Saturday’s launch goes as planned, NASA will be gin coverage of the launch begins at 8:30 a.m. EST. If the launch is canceled, the rocket will launch 9:38 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, NASA said in a statement.
News Article | February 27, 2017
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Feb 9. —Two private citizens have booked a trip around the moon scheduled for 2018, according to a SpaceX announcement Monday afternoon. Yes, you read that right. The commercial spaceflight company that has yet to fly any crewed missions into space plans to send two non-astronauts beyond Earth's orbit next year. Is that really possible? "My guess is that 2020 is more realistic," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. There's still a lot that has to be done before the space tourists can depart on their adventure. First, the equipment needs to be tested. According to SpaceX's announcement, the two space travelers will ride in the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, or version 2 of its current Dragon capsule that carries supplies to the International Space Station. But the Crew Dragon isn't scheduled for an initial uncrewed test flight until later this year, with the goal of launching its first crewed test flight by mid-2018. And the rocket that Crew Dragon is supposed to fly atop, Falcon Heavy, hasn't been tested yet either. It's due for a test launch this summer. It's not impossible to shoot the SpaceX craft around the moon and back on that timeline, Dr. McDowell says, but one small delay could throw it all off. And there are always delays, he says. SpaceX has been criticized before for failing to leave room for such delays in its "punishing schedule," as Scott Pace, a former NASA official and director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, put it in an interview with The New York Times in September 2016. This criticism came after one of SpaceX's semi-reusable rockets exploded during a routine test. Dr. Pace expressed concern that people working for the company might be run ragged by the demands, leading to human errors. That's a significant concern when talking about sending millions of dollars of equipment up to the International Space Station, but the stakes become much higher with humans, especially non-astronaut humans, on board. The lunar mission isn't the only major SpaceX mission set for 2018. The company aims to send an uncrewed spacecraft to Mars the same year as part of its long-term goal of colonizing the Red Planet. Having a circumlunar piloted flight by 2020 would be "an impressive achievement," McDowell says. That's not to say it won't happen, he says. "SpaceX has a great record of doing exactly what they say they're going to do but always several years later than they said they were going to do it. So I have full confidence that this will happen, but on 'Elon time'," McDowell says, referring to SpaceX's chief executive officer and founder Elon Musk. The passengers' trip would take about a week and they would travel about 300,000 to 400,000 miles, The Verge reported. The spacecraft would zoom by the surface of the moon, fly out farther into deep space, and then loop back to Earth. This would be the first time ever that space tourists fly beyond Earth's orbit, McDowell says. American businessman Dennis Tito, was the first private citizen to buy a ticket to the great unknown. On April 28, 2001, he flew aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX isn't the only spaceflight organization considering a flight to the moon. NASA, too, has been considering a next generation rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), to send a capsule on a trip around the moon. Although the path would be similar, NASA's capsule would not contain people and the goal would be for it to fly in 2019. If SpaceX can meet the goal of sending a crewed capsule around the moon in 2018, beating NASA, McDowell points out, this could change the dialogue at the space agency from whether to build their own vessels or just to pay SpaceX for a ride.
News Article | February 20, 2017
SpaceX successfully launched its latest uncrewed cargo mission to the International Space Station on Saturday, and if you haven't seen the video of its Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster coming in for a landing yet, you need to now. While perhaps not as technically impressive nor difficult as SpaceX's previous rocket landings on drone ships out in the Atlantic Ocean, this landing is undeniably breathtaking to watch, filmed by a drone, which tracks the projectile as it smoothly descends back to Earth. And though it looks tiny and delicate in this view, the rocket is actually huge, as an older photo shows: This was SpaceX's first launch from the newly-refurbished Kennedy Space Center Complex 39A, previously the main launchpad for NASA's Apollo program. This was the first commercial usage of this launching area so far. The Falcon 9 first-stage landed about 13 miles down the coast at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Landing Zone 1. SpaceX will attempt to re-use one of its boosters for the first time as early as next month, according to Florida Today, an important milestone on the company's quest to drastically reduce the cost of space travel. Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .
News Article | February 20, 2017
NASA and SpaceX successfully launched cargo headed for the International Space Station, sending about 5,500 pounds of supplies and research equipment to the space station. The event was the first commercial launch to be carried out from the historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Originally, the launch was scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18. However, even with all systems go at liffoff, Elon Musk personally called it off because "an upper stage engine steering hydraulic piston was slightly odd." "If this is the only issue, flight would be fine, but need to make sure that it isn't symptomatic of a more significant upstream root cause," he tweeted. The launch was halted to make way for an investigation, but Musk said the situation is likely to be 99 percent fine. Still, he didn't think that the remaining 1 percent was worth taking the risk. "Better to wait a day," he added. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft aboard the company's Falcon 9 rocket finally saw liftoff Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9:39 a.m. EST. ESA's Thomas Pesquet and NASA's Shane Kimbrough will be tasked with capturing the Dragon spacecraft when it arrives at the space station using the ISS's robotic arm. The capture can be viewed live on NASA TV on Wednesday, Feb. 22 starting 4:30 a.m. This is SpaceX's 10th resupply mission to the ISS and will support investigations carried out by crew members of Expeditions 50 and 51. Several researches are headed for the ISS in this resupply mission, including a crystal growth experiment for crystallizing a monoclonal antibody undergoing clinical trials as an immunological disease treatment. Growing crystals in space is seen as a next step in the research because it will allow for the antibodies to be better preserved in the crystal as there won't be gravity that causes the crystals to collapse on themselves. Once in the crystal, the antibody's biological molecules will be more readily observed. Another experiment will be focusing on how to better define how superbugs become drug-resistant. Aimed at countering bacterial resistance, it will explore the use of stem cells in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. At 2,200 pounds, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment takes up nearly half of the resupply mission's total cargo weight. Once installed on the ISS, the instrument will be used for surveying Earth's upper atmosphere to continue one of the space agency's longest-running programs for observing the planet. Launch Complexes 39A and 39B were built by NASA during the Apollo program. Except for Apollo 10, most space shuttle missions and every moon landing launch were done on 39A. The space agency decided it didn't need two launching pads after the last space shuttle took flight in 2011 so 39A was leased to SpaceX. The company had intended to use 39A for commercial crew missions and launches for the new Falcon Heavy rocket but a static fire test accident put Launch Complex 40 out of commission, which pushed SpaceX to expedite refurbishments for 39A so all East Coat launches can be accommodated. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 20, 2017
SpaceX on Sunday launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the same historic launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center where NASA sent astronauts to the moon and hosted the beginning and end of the shuttle program. A few minutes later at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station the first stage of that rocket did something NASA never even attempted: it came back in for a soft landing on Earth. The first launch from 39A since the last Shuttle launch in 2011 is certainly a milestone, but the landing that followed is nothing less than the continued normalization of science fiction into science reality. The successful rocket recovery was the third at Cape Canaveral, in addition to five more landed at sea on unmanned drone barge landing pads. The weather was cloudy with low visibility for the launch and landing Sunday, but SpaceX parked a drone in the air near the landing pad to capture the above video that Musk shared on Instagram. The rocket stage descends from the clouds, deploying its landing tripod and nails its target near dead center. It's hard not to watch the looping video and dream of where else we could soon be landing rockets or other spacecraft. No wonder Las Vegas has odds on SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk to be the first to take us to Mars.
News Article | February 18, 2017
Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET Poised on the brink of ushering in a new era, NASA's historic launch pad in Florida will need to wait another day for its milestone. At the last minute, the private space company SpaceX scrubbed its Saturday launch, which would have marked the first time the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A was used in over half a decade. Instead, the launch will wait at least 24 hours while SpaceX takes a "closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle," an anomaly that came to light shortly before liftoff. The company plans to try again on Sunday. Taken on its face, the launch itself is not particularly notable. Naturally, it's no mean feat to send a rocket to space, but missions like this one happen all the time. The International Space Station needs provisions, after all, and the 5,500 pounds of supplies and materials for scientific experiments would be a common (if still impressive) load for a resupply mission. Rather, the liftoff now scheduled for Sunday is making history not for its cargo but precisely where it will be taking place: the pad that served as the launch site for the Apollo 11 mission that first sent humans to the moon in 1969. In fact, Launch Complex 39A served as a pad for many of the most famous missions in NASA's history — from the first missions to space that packed a human crew, to the decades-long space shuttle program that helped construct the orbiting station SpaceX's rocket will be supplying. As NPR's Rae Ellen Bichell reports for our Newscast unit, the SpaceX mission marks something of a sea change for the historic launch pad: SpaceX, a privately owned space company, is sending its NASA cargo — and the Dragon spacecraft that bears it — with a Falcon 9 rocket. In a statement, NASA says SpaceX also plans to attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 back on a platform, as it did during its successful launch last month. NASA also explains some of the experiments this launch will be supporting: According to NASA, the mission will also aid in recording "key climate observations and data records."
News Article | February 15, 2017
SpaceX will launch its Falcon 9 rocket from the iconic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), from where the iconic mission carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left for the moon in 1969. Complex 39A was not in use by NASA since 2011 when Atlantis, one of the oldest space shuttle programs was aborted due to a massive blast off from the 39A towards the ISS during the last U.S. shuttle mission. According to a tweet uploaded by SpaceX, Falcon 9 is all set to be launched from the LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center, most probably on Feb.18. The main objective of the Falcon 9 mission is to supply the crew members of the International Space Station (ISS) with all necessities required for survival aboard the station. It is also known that among the supplies that will be carried by the Dragon Capsule, there are several science experiments including one which has been designed by high school students. The experiment aims to judge the impact of microgravity on "smooth muscle cell contraction" in rats. Per the reports from Space Reporters, the MSRA "superbugs" samples are also being sent to the ISS in a closed environment which would notice or monitor the growth and mutation of the bacteria in the "zero gravity environment". The Dragon will supposedly carry more than 5,500 pounds of supplies with a total worth of around $3 billion. It will bring back 5,000 pounds of material. This would be the tenth time that a supply mission will be launched to the ISS. In 1960, the LC-39A was constructed and it became the first site to launch the Apollo 11 Moon Mission and also probably the first and the last space shuttle mission to have taken off from this launch pad. However, from 2011 onwards NASA stopped using this lauch pad, right after the Atlantis space shuttle faced a brutal blast from the same place towards the ISS. In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease which gave it control over the defunct pad. Since then, the organization has repaired the site allowing it to use the LC-39A as the launch pad for Falcon 9. "Falcon 9 rocket now vertical at Cape Canaveral on launch complex 39-A," posted Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX on Instagram. He further added that, it was an honor for his team, since the LC-39A was used to launch the Saturn V Rocket in 1969, which was the first to take people to the moon. After the shutting down its Space Shuttle program, NASA has been dependant on SpaceX and Boeing for sending Astronauts into space. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.