KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA engineers and contractors have successfully completed the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) tower, marking a milestone that puts NASA one step closer to sending Orion 3,600 miles into space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission, scheduled to launch in September 2014. Orion is America’s next generation spacecraft that will carry astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit.
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UPDATE: The 30th Space Wing seems happy, based on their Tweet: 30th Space Wing Yet another launch from good ole Vandenberg! To tonight’s dedicated launch watchers, go warm your fingers and toes!
An Atlas V lifted off at 11:14:30 p.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload (NROL-39). The webcast was ended at just under four minutes into the flight after shroud jettison at the request of the NRO. The flight was nominal for the portion that was webcast. ULA might make an announcement later as to the mission result, or perhaps the NRO will do so.
With help from NASA, four student-built CubeSat research satellites will launch into space Friday from the California coast as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
The CubeSats will be included as auxiliary payloads aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:13 a.m. EST carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-39 satellite. The CubeSats are a part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) II mission, NASA’s fifth ELaNa mission to launch into space. The miniature satellites will deploy from their protective cases into Earth orbit about three hours after liftoff.
LAS VEGAS, NV, December 5, 2013 (Moon Express PR) – Moon Express, Inc., a privately funded lunar resources company, unveiled its “MX-1” lunar lander spacecraft today as a breakthrough robotic space vehicle capable of a multitude of applications including delivering scientific and commercial payloads to the Moon at a fraction of the cost of conventional approaches. The spacecraft design is being unveiled today at the closing session of Autodesk University in Las Vegas in front of an audience of over 10,000 attendees.
Video Caption: Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) –- On today’s “Regnomix,” Former NASA Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Space Adventures President Tom Shelley and Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson discuss Spacex’s successful launch of a satellite and the future of private space travel. They speak with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.” (Source: Bloomberg)
EDITOR’S NOTE: An interesting little revelation here that SpaceX is not profitable, but it is cash flow positive. This is something I have long wondered about. The relatively small number of launches plus a large surge in the number of employees has left me puzzled about how the company funds its operations. NASA funding has helped with commercial crew and cargo. So has taking deposits on a large number of future satellite launches. There’s also probably been some additional private investment.
The other part is keeping costs low. SpaceX employees work brutal hours; 50 to 70+ hours per week seems to be normal there. The company also hires a number of long-term temporary workers who work the same type of hours but received none of the benefits of full-time employees. No health coverage, no vacation or sick days, no stock options. All this is pretty normal for Silicon Valley, whose culture Musk has imported into SpaceX. However, this type of work schedule also results in burn-out and higher turnover rates. One wonders how long they can sustain it.
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NASA PR) — PhoneSat 2.4, NASA’s next generation smartphone cubesat has phoned home. The tiny spacecraft that uses an off-the-shelf smartphone for a brain has completed checkout and sent back data confirming all systems are “go” for the spry spacefarer.
PhoneSat 2.4, a cube approximately four inches square, weighs only about 2.2 pounds, and was developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. It is first of the PhoneSat family to use a two-way S-band radio, allowing engineers to command the satellite from Earth. It is confirming the viability of using smartphones and other commercially available electronics in satellites destined for low-Earth orbit.
HILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is excited to announce that it has expanded its list of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s) to eleven, after officially partnering with Honeybee Robotics and Made In Space. PISCES will partner with the companies on the Center’s 3D laser printing projects.
The signing took place at the PISCES Board of Director’s meeting on October 6th in Honolulu – the day before the Hawaii Aerospace Summit.
I spotted WhiteKnightTwo on the ramp outside of its hangar this afternoon. There was no sign of SpaceShipTwo. When I looked later in the day, the carrier aircraft was not there. I’m guessing it was back inside the hangar. If it flew, it likely did so in the morning; late afternoon flights are fairly rare.
I received a report last week that WhiteKnightTwo had been out flying on its own four or five times prior to the Thanksgiving break. None of the flights have shown up yet on the Scaled Composites summary page.
California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.
McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.
The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.
Over the last few months, residents along the East Coast have been treated to a series of spectacular nighttime rocket launches from SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation. This week, it’s time for the West Coast to shine.
An Atlas V is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Thursday at 11:13 p.m. PST. The ULA rocket will carry a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload (NROL-39) into polar orbit.
The launch will be webcast live beginning at 10:53 p.m. PST at http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/pages/Multimedia_Webcast.shtml
This is ULA’s 11th launch out of 12 scheduled for the year. The last one on the company’s manifest is Delta IV launch out of Cape Canaveral set for Dec. 12.
Weather Forecast via ULA (as of Tuesday, Dec. 3)
- Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 80%; Primary concern(s): Temperature
- Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 30%; Primary concern(s): Thick Clouds