NASA Signs Agreement with SpaceX for Use of Historic Launch Pad

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Discovery_Launch_Pad_39A

Discovery on Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, the site from which numerous Apollo and space shuttle missions began, is beginning a new mission as a commercial launch site.

NASA signed a property agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., on Monday for use and occupancy of the seaside complex along Florida’s central east coast. It will serve as a platform for SpaceX to support their commercial launch activities.

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Virgin Australia Offers Space Class for SpaceShipTwo Flight

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virgin_australia_logoIn a world first for a frequent flyer program, Velocity is offering members the ultimate upgrade to ‘Space Class’. This is an exclusive seat on board SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial spaceline with Virgin Galactic and certified astronaut status.

To be eligible*, simply register your Velocity membership number and tell us what you would do for an upgrade to Space Class between 14 April and 30 June 2014 (inclusive) and fly Virgin Australia between 1 May and 30 June (inclusive).

The eligible entrant with the most creative response to the question below will be awarded the Space Class Upgrade.

SpaceX Signs 20-Year Lease for Pad 39A

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Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX has signed a 20-year lease on Pad 39A, the former shuttle launch facility the company plans to use for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

“I promise everybody, we’re going to make great use of this pad,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and KSC Director Bob Cabana joined Shotwell at the pad to announce the agreement moments after they signed it, beginning the pad’s “new mission as a commercial launch site,” Bolden said.

SpaceX hopes to launch its first heavy-lift Falcon rocket from KSC in the first quarter of next year, a mission previously expected to launch from California.

And if later this year SpaceX wins a NASA contract to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, those missions also would depart from KSC by 2017….

Shotwell said SpaceX would install new instrumentation and some new plumbing at 39A.

More details are to come, but the overhaul likely won’t be as significant as at pad 39B, where NASA dismantled the fixed and rotating shuttle service towers.

Read more here.

Virgin Galactic Forms Partnership With Land Rover

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Credit: Land Rover

Credit: Land Rover

NEW YORK (Land Rover PR) — Land Rover, the British brand synonymous with adventure, has revealed a long-term global partnership with Richard Branson’s pioneering commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic.

Demonstrating their shared vision of pioneering spirit, technological innovation and sense of adventure, the ground breaking partnership was announced against the backdrop of SpaceShipTwo, the world’s first commercial passenger carrying spacecraft, together with Land Rover’s new Discovery Vision Concept vehicle.  The announcement illustrates the commitment that both brands share to iconic design and engineering excellence and a desire to push the boundaries of travel for the next generation.

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SpaceX Scrubs Falcon 9 Launch

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Falcon 9 with landing legs attached. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 with landing legs attached. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE:  NASA’s statement on the scrub: “SpaceX’s launch to the International Space Station was scrubbed today due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9 first stage. The next launch opportunity would be Friday, April 18 at 3:25 p.m. EDT if the issue can be resolved.”

SpaceX has scrubbed the scheduled launch of ts Falcon 9 rocket due to an unspecified technical issue. The rocket is to send a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station. SpaceX also will attempt to bring the Falcon 9′s first stage to a controlled landing on the ocean.

The next launch window opens on Friday.

This Week on The Space Show

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This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, April 14, 2014, 2-3:30 PM PDT(5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome BRETT STROOZAS, the Director of Flight Operations for Elysium Space Burial Company. See http://elysiumspace.com.

2. Tuesday, April 15, 2014:, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back JOHN POWELL of JP Aerospace. See http://www.jpaerospace.com.

3. SPECIAL TIME: Friday, April 18, 2014, 11:30 AM-1 PM PDT (2:30-4 PM EDT; 1:30 PM-3 PM CDT): We welcome authors DAVID MEERMAN AND RICHARD JUREK regarding their new book, “Marketing The Moon.” .

4. Sunday, April 20, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). No Show Due to Easter. Happy Easter to all.

Smartphone Sat Headed for ISS

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PhoneSat 2.5 (Credit: NASA)

PhoneSat 2.5 (Credit: NASA)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NAS PR) — NASA’s preparing to send its fifth in a series of smartphone-controlled small spacecraft into orbit. PhoneSat 2.5 will ride into space as part of the SpaceX-3 commercial cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX-3 is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 14.

Once in Earth orbit, the tiny spacecraft will demonstrate the power of smartphone components to support space-based communications systems and survive the radiation environment of low Earth orbit — as high as 220 miles above Earth. The technology demonstration mission also will pave the way for a constellation of cooperative small satellites scheduled to launch later this year.

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Fungi Research Conducted in Space

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The study’s lead author Aurélie Crabbé (left), Cheryl Nickerson (Principal Investigator and senior author on the study) and co-author Jennifer Barrila (right) of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology. (Credit: Arizona State University/Anais Bon)

The study’s lead author Aurélie Crabbé (left), Cheryl Nickerson (Principal Investigator and senior author on the study) and co-author Jennifer Barrila (right) of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology. (Credit: Arizona State University/Anais Bon)

TEMPE, Ariz. (NASA PR) — You may not recognize it by name, but if you have ever had a child with a diaper rash, that child was likely a host to Candida albicans (C. albicans). This unwelcome “guest” can be hard to control, as it can potentially lead to serious illness in humans with weakened immune systems. During an investigation dubbed “Microbe,” using the unique microgravity environment aboard space shuttle Atlantis on an International Space Station mission, researchers at the Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe gained a better understanding of these prevalent fungi. Their tendency to become more aggressive in microgravity helps scientists see what mechanisms control the behavior of these types of organisms, with the potential to develop ways to influence their behavior both in space and on Earth.

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Finally! A Plane Crazy Saturday With Crazy Planes

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mojave_tower_sunset_smFor anyone who has been underwhelmed by seeing the same small collection of tax-dodging aircraft on the ramp month after month at Plane Crazy Saturday, you’ll be happy to hear there is finally a a change of pace this week.

The Mojave Experimental Flyin is back in town on Easter weekend, which means the ramp will be full of all sorts of funky aircraft on Saturday and Sunday. The public will be able to view them during the regular Plane Crazy Saturday event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

There’s a dinner planned on Saturday evening at the structure formerly known as the Pool Building on Poole Street (No Relation), since renamed the Stuart O. Witt Event Center.

Some pilots have already arrived in Mojave. During the week leading up to the flyin, pilots will be attempting to set a series of aviation records in their experimental aircraft. At least one attempt took place yesterday.

For some legal reason, no dates and times are being announced, and people are being discouraged from showing up to watch the record attempts.

I’d heard a while back that Scaled Composites was also having a jobs fair on Saturday. If so, they are keeping it a well-guarded secret because I can’t find any reference to it anywhere.  So, it’s either not happening or they’re better at keeping a jobs fair than their recent engine tests. (About a 50-second test of the nylon-nitrous alternate engine for SpaceShipTwo on Thursday, right? Sounds like it went well.)

But, I digress. If you have no other plans for Easter weekend, come up to Mojave. For more details, visit http://www.mojaveflyin.com/.

SpaceX Dragon Flight to ISS is On for Monday

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SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials said today that SpaceX’s launch of a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station is on for Monday despite the failure of an external computer on the orbiting facility.

The Falcon 9 launch is set for 4:58 p.m. EDT from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Floriday. NASA is planning a spacewalk for later this month to fix the external computer.

During a press conference this afternoon, NASA officials said there is an 80 percent probability of weather being acceptable for the Monday launch. There is only a 40 percent probability of weather being acceptable on Friday, which is the next launch window.