A Long March 3B rocket blasted off from the mountains of southern China today, carrying with it the first spacecraft intended to land on the Moon since 1976 (the Soviet Union’s Luna 24). Nestled inside the Chang’e 3 spacecraft is a 260 pound rover named Yutu, China’s first land-mobile explorer. Chang’e 3 follows the country’s two previous lunar orbiters which flew in 2007 and 2010 as part of China’s ambitious long-term plan for the eventual human exploration of Earth’s companion. Full Story, Photos and Video >>
SpaceX is hoping for a special Thanksgiving after the maiden flight of the company’s upgraded Falcon 9 rocket was scrubbed in its first launch attempt today. It would mark the first Thanksgiving Day space launch from Cape Canaveral since 1959. SpaceX hopes to have better luck than NASA did on that day – that launch failed after liftoff. The 65-minute launch window for Falcon and its commercial payload, a communications satellite, opens at approximately 5:39 p.m. EST and will mark the first commercial satellite launch from the Cape in several years as cheaper foreign providers have cornered the market from the Delta and Atlas launch vehicles.
Falcon 9 / SES-8 Press Kit
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With a thunderous roar, NASA’s Mars Atmoshere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft rocketed into space today on time at 1:28 p.m. EST and the opening of a 20-day launch period. Nestled atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket, MAVEN lifted off from from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral AFS and quickly sliced through partly cloudy skies, thrilling crowds gathered along the causeways and beaches to watch NASA’s newest emissary to the Red Planet break the bonds of Earth’s gravity. Less than an hour later, MAVEN was cast free from the Atlas upper stage to begin a nearly year-long cruise to Mars and an ambitious mission to understand the history of the Martian atmosphere, present-day processes and add another piece to the question, Where did Mars water go?
The Mercury Monument stands outside of Complex 14 was dedicated on this day 49 years ago. The monument shows the number 7 (in honor of the “Original Seven” astronauts) inside of the astronomical symbol for the planet Mercury. Underneath the slab is a time capsule that contains artifacts related to Project Mercury, including photos, film footage, capsule blueprints, and even John Glenn’s Marine Corps pilot’s wings. It was dedicated on November 10, 1964 and is scheduled to be opened 500 years later in 2464. Only 451 years to go! Maybe Captain Kirk can do the reveal. All photos credit: NASA except where noted.
Last week, Sierra Nevada conducted the first free-flight test of its Dream Chaser passenger carrying spacecraft. During the test, involving a non-spaceworthy atmospheric test vehicle, Dream Chaser was carried aloft to a 12,500 foot altitude by helicopter and released to perform a glide test back to the runway at Edwards AFB. The purpose of the test was to determine the aerodynamic handling qualities of the design, controllability, stability and other characteristics of the spacecraft during the final phases before landing. A necessary goal, but not strictly a test objective, was for the test article to finish its flight undamaged on the runway. Full Story, Photos and Video >>
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) suffered an apparent setback of its efforts to develop a commercial orbital passenger spacecraft today during the maiden free-flight of the atmospheric test article of the company’s Dream Chaser lifting body. According to eyewitness and confirmed by SNC, a landing gear deployment failure occurred and Dream Chaser flipped over after touchdown, damaging the craft and casting a pall of uncertainty over the future of SNC’s development schedule and the company’s goal of becoming one of NASA’s contracted ISS crew transport providers. Full Story, Photos and Video >>
International Launch Services (ILS), a leader in providing mission integration and launch services to the global commercial satellite industry, successfully carried the Sirius FM-6 satellite, built by SSL, into orbit October 26 on an ILS Proton for Sirius XM Radio Inc. Full Story, Photos and Video >>
During the NASA shutdown, the LADEE mission continued to perform its critical maneuvers and capture into the commissioning orbit around the moon. The trajectory correction maneuver (TCM-1) was completed on Oct. 1, and set the spacecraft to rendezvous with the moon on Oct. 6.
The launch of a Proton launch vehicle with the Sirius FM-6 satellite was postponed today for at least 24 hours due to issues with the satellite ground station network required for the launch and early orbital operations of the Sirius FM-6 spacecraft. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center (Khrunichev) and International Launch Services (ILS) plan to make another attempt at 12:12 a.m. local time on October 22 in Baikonur (2:12 pm EDT on October 21). The satellite was built for SiriusXM Radio of New York, by SSL of California.
It was determined by SSL and SiriusXM, as a precautionary measure, that additional time was needed to evaluate issues related to required remote satellite ground stations. The Proton Launch Vehicle and Sirius FM-6 satellite remain in a safe configuration with no technical issues at the launch site.
Sirius FM-6 is a high-power geostationary satellite from SiriusXM, America’s largest radio broadcaster measured by revenue and one of the world’s largest pure-play audio entertainment companies. Sirius FM-6 will help with the delivery of commercial-free music, and premier sports, news, talk, entertainment and Latin programming, traffic and weather to more than 25 million subscribers. Sirius FM-6 will also help in the delivery of traffic and other data service information to markets across North America for vehicles with navigational systems.
SiriusXM is installed in vehicles of every major automaker and available for sale at retail locations nationwide. Sirius FM-6 will ensure SiriusXM’s array of audio and data services are received by vehicles, mobile devices and home receivers and will play an important role in bolstering the continuity of service for years to come.
The Proton M launch vehicle, utilizing a 5-burn Breeze M mission design, will lift off from Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, with the Sirius FM-6 satellite on board. The first three stages of the Proton will use a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze M upper stage and the Sirius FM-6 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory. From this point in the mission, the Breeze M will perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geostationary transfer orbit. Separation of the Sirius FM-6 satellite is scheduled to occur approximately 9 hours, 11 minutes, and 20 seconds after liftoff.
For updated information, please check the ILS website, http://www.ilslaunch.com.
On Monday, October 7th, Grasshopper completed its highest leap to date, rising to 744m altitude, hovering and returning back to the launch pad. The test lasted 78.8 seconds and was conducted at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, TX. The video is filmed from a single camera hexacopter drone, getting closer to the stage than in any previous flight.