Stratolaunch Aircraft Strolls Outside for a Little California Sun

Stratolaunch aircraft rolls out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch emerged from its hangar over the weekend to soak up some California sun. Engineers took the giant, twin fuselage carrier aircraft outside for some tests.

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft has a wingspan of 385 ft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The announced plan was to conduct some taxi tests on Runway 12/30. The plane didn’t make it that far. Engineers put the airplane through a series of fueling, fueling, full-power engine and communication tests.

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft outside for tests. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The aircraft will begin by launching Pegasus XL boosters, which are produced by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

Stratolaunch carrier plane is a dual fuselage aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The company is also working on a medium launcher that expected to debut in 2021. There are not a lot of details about the project, which is under the direction of Vice President of Propulsion Jeff Thornburg.

Stratolaunch aircraft outside for testing. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

I caught a glimpse of the aircraft from Highway 14 during my return from the Small Satellite Conference in Utah. I was probably five miles away at the time, but the thing still looked massive sitting there next to the hangar.

Space Station Experiment Reaches Ultracold Milestone

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) consists of two standardized containers that will be installed on the International Space Station. The larger container is called a “quad locker,” and the smaller container is called a “single locker.” The quad locker contains CAL’s physics package, or the compartment where CAL will produce clouds of ultra-cold atoms. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tyler Winn)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The International Space Station is officially home to the coolest experiment in space.

NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) was installed in the station’s U.S. science lab in late May and is now producing clouds of ultracold atoms known as Bose-Einstein condensates. These “BECs” reach temperatures just above absolute zero, the point at which atoms should theoretically stop moving entirely. This is the first time BECs have ever been produced in orbit.

(more…)

NanoRacks Completes Fifth External Cygnus Deployment, Six More CubeSats in Orbit

DULLES, Virginia (NanoRacks PR) — Yesterday evening, NanoRacks successfully deployed six CubeSats from the Company’s CubeSat deployer mounted on the outside of the Cygnus spacecraft. This brings the overall count to 223 small satellites deployed into low-Earth orbit.

The ninth contracted resupply mission from Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems) launched on May 21, 2018, carrying NanoRacks’ fifth mission providing opportunities for CubeSat deployment from Cygnus after the vehicle departs from the International Space Station. Prior to launch, the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer is installed on the exterior of the Cygnus service module with the capability to deploy satellites after the spacecraft completes its primary space station commercial resupply mission.

(more…)

NASA TV to Cover Cygnus Departure From Station on Sunday

The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Nearly two months after Orbital ATK, now part of Northrop Grumman, delivered several tons of supplies and scientific experiments to the International Space Station aboard its Cygnus cargo spacecraft, the spacecraft is set to depart the orbiting laboratory Sunday, July 15. Live coverage of unberthing and release will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus, dubbed the SS “J.R. Thompson,” after a leader in the aerospace industry. Live coverage will begin at 8:15 a.m. EDT for a scheduled release at 8:35 a.m.

Following its release, Cygnus will deploy a series of NanoRacks customer CubeSats. The cargo craft will then remain in orbit for an additional two weeks to allow the Cygnus flight control team to conduct engineering tests. The satellite deployment will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

Cygnus is scheduled to deorbit with thousands of pounds of trash on Monday, July 30, as it burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean while entering Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft’s deorbit will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

Cygnus launched May 21 on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and arrived at the station on May 24, carrying a variety of science and technology investigations.

Keep up with the International Space Station and its research and crew at:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

Get breaking news, images and features from the space station on social media at:

https://instagram.com/iss

and

https://www.twitter.com/Space_Station

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

(more…)

Northrop Grumman Closes Orbital ATK Acquisition

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – June 6, 2018 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) today announced it has closed the acquisition of Orbital ATK Inc. (“Orbital ATK”), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. Orbital ATK is now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, a new, fourth business sector.

Northrop Grumman’s board of directors has elected Blake Larson as corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, reporting to Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman’s president and chief operating officer. Larson previously served as the chief operating officer of Orbital ATK.

(more…)