Boeing will use United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets for initial test flights of the company's proposed CST-100 manned spacecraft, a seven-seat capsule being developed for commercial missions to and from government and private-sector space stations in low-Earth orbit, company officials announced today.
John Elbon, vice president and program manager of Boeing commercial crew transportation systems, said four test flights of the CST-100 spacecraft are envisioned, assuming continued NASA funding, including an on-the-launch-pad abort test in 2014 that will not require a booster.
The other three flights will use a version of the Atlas 5 that includes one solid-fuel … Read more
Four years after launch from Cape Canaveral, NASA's ion-drive Dawn spacecraft is finally in orbit around the asteroid Vesta, studying the second largest body in the rubble-strewn belt between Mars and Jupiter in unprecedented detail. Pictures released today show a strangely tortured world with huge parallel grooves separating the heavily cratered northern hemisphere from smoother terrain in the south dominated by the chaotic remnants of a catastrophic impact.
"These photos have been already a great revelation to the team about what the surface is like," Christopher Russell, the mission's principal investigator, told reporters today. "We … Read more
NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft, the centerpiece of a $1.1 billion mission to Jupiter, was mounted atop an Atlas 5 rocket today, setting the stage for launch August 5 on a five-year voyage to the solar system's largest planet.
Once in orbit around Jupiter's poles, Juno's instruments will precisely map the planet's gravitational and magnetic fields, probe its turbulent atmosphere and hidden interior and study the mechanisms responsible for its powerhouse auroras, the strongest in the solar system.
"Jupiter probably formed first, it's the largest of all the planets, in fact it's … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--By the light of a waning moon, the shuttle Atlantis fell back to Earth this morning, dropping out of predawn darkness to close out NASA's 135th and final shuttle voyage, a long-awaited--and long-dreaded--milestone marking the end of an era for American manned space flight.
Coming home to a future clouded by tight budgets and uncertain political support, commander Christopher Ferguson guided Atlantis through a sweeping left overhead turn and lined up on runway 15, quickly descending into the glare of powerful xenon spotlights.
Approaching the 3-mile-long runway, Ferguson pulled the shuttle's nose up in … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--After 37 space station assembly flights over the past 12 and a half years, the shuttle Atlantis undocked from the lab complex for the final time today in a long-awaited milestone that marks the beginning of the end for NASA's last shuttle mission.
With pilot Douglas "Chunky" Hurley at the controls, Atlantis pulled away from the station's forward docking port at 2:28 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft sailed through orbital darkness 243 miles above the Pacific Ocean east of Christchurch, New Zealand.
"Physical separation, Houston," commander Christopher … Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--In the dwindling hours of the shuttle program's last visit to the International Space Station, the Atlantis astronauts detached a bus-size cargo module from the space station today and mounted it in the shuttle's payload bay, wrapping up NASA's final shuttle station resupply mission.
The astronauts then gathered for a brief farewell to the lab crew before moving back aboard Atlantis to rig the ship for undocking early Tuesday. Landing at the Kennedy Space Center is targeted for 5:57 a.m. EDT Thursday.
The astronauts on the United States' final space shuttle mission will get one extra day in space.
Using the International Space Station's robot arm, the Atlantis astronauts pulled a bus-size cargo module from the shuttle's payload bay today and attached it to the lab's forward Harmony module to clear the way for a busy week of logistics transfers. The Italian-built Raffaello module is loaded with 9,403 pounds of supplies and equipment, including 2,677 pounds of food, that will help keep the station crew supplied through 2012.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--After a cliff-hanger countdown, the space shuttle Atlantis thundered to life and majestically rocketed into history Friday, putting on one last sky show for spectators jamming area roads and beaches to witness NASA's 135th and final shuttle launch.
With commander Christopher Ferguson and pilot Douglas Hurley monitoring the computer-orchestrated countdown, Atlantis' three hydrogen-fueled main engines flashed to life at 120 millisecond intervals, followed 6.6 seconds later by ignition of the shuttle's twin solid fuel boosters at 11:29:04 a.m. EDT (GMT-4).
At that same instant, explosive charges in four massive bolts … Read more
NASA's aging Voyager spacecraft, more than three decades outbound from Earth and approaching the outermost limits of the solar system, may be seeing signs of what scientists believe are huge magnetic bubbles churning at the interface between the sun's influence and interstellar space. The unexpected bubbles, shaped like sausages more than 100 million miles across, likely affect how high-energy cosmic rays pass into the inner solar system and may shed light on how stars interact with their galactic environments.
"It's exciting. We're learning new things almost every day," Voyager project scientist Ed Stone said.… Read more
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--Signaling the beginning of the end for NASA's storied shuttle program, the Endeavour plunged back to Earth today, closing out its 25th and final flight.
The baton is now passed to its sistership, Atlantis, which was hauled to the launching pad a few hours earlier for it July 8 blastoff on the program's final voyage.
With commander Mark Kelly and pilot Gregory Johnson at the controls, Endeavour dropped out of a moonless sky and into the glare of powerful xenon floodlights after a fiery descent from orbit, settling to a ghostly touchdown on runway 15 at 2:34 a.m. EDT.
Barreling down the 300-foot-wide landing strip at more than 200 mph, Johnson deployed a large red-and-white braking parachute, Kelly brought the nose down, and Endeavour coasted to a stop on the runway centerline.
"Houston, Endeavour. Wheels stopped," Kelly radioed in a traditional call to Houston.
"122 million miles flown during 25 challenging space flights, your landing ends a vibrant legacy for this amazing vehicle that will long be remembered," astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore replied from mission control. "Welcome home, Endeavour."
"Thank you, Houston," Kelly said. "You know, the space shuttle is an amazing vehicle, to fly through the atmosphere, hit it at Mach 25, steer through the atmosphere like an airplane, land on a runway. It is really, really an incredible ship."
He thanked "every person who's worked on Endeavour," saying "it's sad to see her land for the last time, but she really has a great legacy."… Read more