“Chasing New Horizons” Gets to the Heart of Mysterious Pluto

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Chasing New Horizons: Insider the Epic First Mission to Pluto
by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
Picador, 2018
hardcover, 320 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-250-09896-2
US$28.00

As America celebrated Independence Day on July 4, 2015, many members of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) team that had guiding NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft toward the first ever exploration of Pluto took a little time off to relax before their lives became very busy.

After a 9.5-year long journey, the spacecraft was only 10 days out from its closest approach to the mysterious dwarf planet. All the secrets Pluto had kept hidden for 85 years since Clyde Tombaugh discovered in 1930 were about to be revealed.

And then the unthinkable happened. Controllers suddenly lost contact with the spacecraft as they were loading the final software needed to guide it through week-long flyby sequence set to begin in only three days. When communications were restored, controllers discovered to its horror that the program and all the supporting files they had spent months uploading had been wiped from the spacecraft’s computer.

(more…)

ICEYE-X2 SAR Satellite to Be Launched on Upcoming Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express Mission

HELSINKI,  November 8 (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, an Earth observation company creating the world’s largest Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellite constellation, today confirmed it is launching the company’s second SAR satellite, ICEYE-X2, into low Earth orbit on Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission.

The mission is currently targeted to launch on November 19th from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. ICEYE-X2 will further showcase the capabilities of ICEYE’s SAR technology. This launch follows the success of ICEYE’s first satellite mission ICEYE-X1 earlier this year. The ICEYE-X2 satellite has recently finished all tests, and it has been shipped to the launch site.

(more…)

European-Built Service Module Arrives in U.S. for First Orion Moon Mission

The European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is loaded on an Antonov airplane in Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 5, 2018, for transport to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the first time, NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft, extending the international cooperation of the International Space Station into deep space. (Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — The powerhouse that will help NASA’s Orion spacecraft venture beyond the Moon is stateside. The European-built service module that will propel, power and cool during Orion flight to the Moon on Exploration Mission-1 arrived from Germany at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday to begin final outfitting, integration and testing with the crew module and other Orion elements.

(more…)

Trump Appoints Alan Stern to National Science Board

Alan Stern

WASHINGTON (White House PR) — President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the National Science Board for the remainder of six-year terms expiring May 10, 2024:

  • Maureen L. Condic of Utah
  • Suresh V. Garimella of Indiana
  • Steven Leath of Alabama
  • Geraldine Richmond of Oregon
  • S. Alan Stern of Colorado
  • Stephen Willard of Maryland
  • Maria Theresa Zuber of Massachusetts

NASA Looks to University Researchers for Innovative Space Tech Solutions

Close-up view of a friction stir weld tack tool used to manufacture external tanks of the space shuttle. Friction stir welding is different from traditional fusion welding in that the materials are not melted. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — University-led research could transform the future of space exploration, from small spacecraft to “smart” systems for the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has selected 14 proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high-priority needs of America’s space program.

(more…)

Falcon 9 Receives NASA Category 3 Rating to Carry Most Complex Science Missions

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself. GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has certified as a Category 3 launch vehicle. Category 3 launch vehicles are certified to support NASA’s highest cost and most complex scientific missions. The following statement is from SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell:

“LSP Category 3 certification is a major achievement for the Falcon 9 team and represents another key milestone in our close partnership with NASA. We are honored to have the opportunity to provide cost-effective and reliable launch services to the country’s most critical scientific payloads.’

The process of designating launch vehicles as Category 3 is designed to assure the highest practical probability of success. Falcon 9 has completed over 60 missions, including the NASA LSP missions Jason-3 and TESS.

CASIS, National Science Foundation Announce Transport Phenomena in Space Funding Opportunity

Up to $4 million in funding from the National Science Foundation will be available for fluid dynamics, particulate and multiphase processes, combustion and fire systems, and thermal transport research aboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory

Kennedy Space Center, Fla., November 7, 2018 (CASIS PR) — The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a “Transport Phenomena” joint solicitation wherein researchers from the fluid dynamics, particulate and multiphase processes, thermal transport, and combustion and fire system communities will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the space station.

(more…)

Spaceflight Arranges Launch of 12 Satellites Aboard India’s PSLV C43

Rideshare launch service provider prepares payload integration for its seventh launch with India’s PSLV

SEATTLE, Nov. 8, 2018 (Spaceflight PR) – Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will launch 12 spacecraft in November from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Payloads aboard the mission include Fleet Space Technologies’ Centauri I, Harris Corporation’s HSAT, Spire’s LEMUR satellites, and BlackSky’s Global-1 microsatellite.

‘In addition to securing capacity aboard the launch vehicle, Spaceflight executed the integration of most of the payloads at its Seattle integration facility. The payloads are currently en route to PSLV’s launch facility at India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center for a launch in late November.

(more…)

Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility Receives FAA Launch Site Operator License

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACEPORT, Fla., November 08, 2018 (Space Florida PR) – Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space (AST) issued Space Florida a Launch Site Operator License (LSOL) for operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). This landmark license, which is required by any site with multiple users, expands the capabilities of the Cape to multiple horizontal launch and landing customers.

(more…)

DARPA Names Potential Sites for Launch Challenge, Eighteen Teams Prequalify

DARPA Launch Challenge candidate sites (Credit: DARPA)

ARLINGTON, Va. (NASA PR) — DARPA has narrowed the potential launch locations for the DARPA Launch Challenge to eight, with options for both vertical and horizontal launch. The challenge will culminate in late 2019 with two separate launches to low Earth orbit within weeks of each other from two different sites. Competitors will receive information about the final launch sites, payloads, and targeted orbit in the weeks prior to each launch.

(more…)

Arianespace Orbits Metop-C in Third Successful Launch for EUMETSAT’s Metop Meteorological Program

Soyuz launches Metop-C weather satellite. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has successfully launched the Metop-C satellite for EUMETSAT, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

Arianespace’s eighth launch of the year, and the second using a Soyuz rocket, took place on Tuesday, November 6 at 9:47 p.m. (local time) from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

(more…)

Launch of NASA’s ICON Satellite Scrubbed

Editor’s Note: There was reportedly a problem with a sensor. It’s not clear whether it’s the same sensor problem that delayed a previous launch attempt from the Marshall Islands.