NASA completes the 74,000-pound Orion “short stack” at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, preparing the crew module for its first mission into space. The short stack, or the stacking of the Orion crew module, service module and spacecraft adapter, brings NASA a step closer to a new era of human space exploration.
In just a few months, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test-1. The two-orbit, four-hour unmanned flight test will help engineer [...]
Next week in St. Petersburg, Russia, scientists on an international team that includes Penn State University astronomers will present a paper that provides a simple explanation for mysterious ultra-long gamma-ray bursts -- a very rare form of the most powerful explosions in the universe.
"The recent discovery of ultra-long gamma-ray bursts raised questions about whether some new physics is required to explain them, but our work suggests a much simpler explanation," said David Burrows, a Penn [...]
The blue dot in this image marks the spot of an energetic pulsar -- the magnetic, spinning core of star that blew up in a supernova explosion. NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, discovered the pulsar by identifying its telltale pulse -- a rotating beam of X-rays, that like a cosmic lighthouse, intersects Earth every 0.2 seconds.
The pulsar, called PSR J1640-4631, lies in our inner Milky Way galaxy about 42,000 light-years away. It was originally identified by as an inten [...]
New observations explain why Milky Way-like galaxies are so common in the Universe.
For decades scientists have believed that galaxy mergers usually result in the formation of elliptical galaxies. Now, for the the first time, researchers using ALMA and a host of other radio telescopes have found direct evidence that merging galaxies can instead form disc galaxies, and that this outcome is in fact quite common. This surprising result could explain why there are so many spiral galaxies like the [...]
Atlas V Lifts Off with CLIO.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO mission for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company launched at 8:10 p.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-41.
“It is an honor to work with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and all of our mission partners to launch this very important satellite,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “Today’s launch marks ULA’s 1 [...]
The Dawn spacecraft has resumed normal ion thrusting after the thrusting unexpectedly stopped and the spacecraft entered safe mode on September 11. That anomaly occurred shortly before a planned communication with NASA's Deep Space Network that morning. The spacecraft was not performing any special activities at the time.
Engineers immediately began working to restore the spacecraft to its normal operational state. The team determined the source of the problems, corrected them, and then resu [...]
It has been a good week for auroras. Earlier this month active sunspot region 2158 rotated into view and unleashed a series of flares and plasma ejections into the Solar System during its journey across the Sun's disk. In particular, a pair of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) impacted the Earth's magnetosphere toward the end of last week, creating the most intense geomagnetic storm so far this year.
Although power outages were feared by some, the most dramatic effects of these impacting plasma [...]
I just did a guest post on the Sic Semper Tyrannis blog on the CCtCap and Blue Origin/ULA announcements. They’re aimed at people less familiar with space news than most Selenian Boondocks readers, but I figured I’d link to it so I can say I’ve done at least one post on this blog this month…
NASA announced a pair of contracts worth a total of $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station in a press conference today.
The mission for each company: build a ship capable of sending at least four astronauts at a time to the station and demo at least one flight by 2017. Thereafter, deliver two to six more missions each as required by NASA.
The contracts couldn’t come soon enough for NASA, which has, embarrassingly for the U.S. government, had to rely on Russian Soyuz launches to get its crews to the space station since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011. This flies in the face of U.S. sanctions against Russia imposed in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The new contracts are designed to end the reliance on Russia for Space Station crew flights as soon as possible.
Interestingly, the two companies won’t get an equal split of the contract money, even though they are to deliver the same set of milestones. Boeing is to get up to $4.2 billion, while SpaceX stands to make $2.6 billion. A NASA official was asked several times by reporters why Boeing gets more for the same service, but she wouldn’t comment except to say that the award amounts were based on proposals by the two companies.
My own guess is that SpaceX is charging less because it can, and because more affordable spaceflight is one of its primary missions.
Aboard the orbiting International Space Station, Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst tackled a packed agenda Tuesday filled with spacewalk equipment inspections, science support and preparations for the arrival of a commercial cargo craft set to launch early Saturday. Meanwhile on Earth, the three flight engineers who will restore Expedition 41 to its full six-person complement are in the homestretch of training for their launch to the station [...]