Spaceflight Insider

Proposal for extended New Horizons mission submitted to NASA

Laurel KornfeldApril 30th An extended mission proposal featuring a close flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) along with distant observations of 20 more KBOs and further study of the environment of the outer solar system has been submitted to NASA by the New Horizons team.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s $67M contract with NASA set to develop new SEP system

Michael ColeApril 30th NASA announced last week their selection of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., of Redmond, Washington, to develop a newly advanced electric propulsion system. The new system is the next step in NASA's Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is developing new technologies to expand the range and capabilities of future science and exploration missions.

SpaceX releases 360-degree view of CRS-8 landing

Jason RhianApril 29th SpaceX has released a 360 degree view of the April 8, 2016 landing of the Falcon 9 FT rocket's first stage returning from sending the CRS-8 Dragon on its way to the International Space Station.

ULA: Issue with Atlas V’s MRCV responsible for March 22 in-flight anomaly

Jason RhianApril 29th Engineers with ULA have determined an anomaly with the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve assembly caused a reduction in fuel flow during the March 22 flight of an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying the OA-6 Cygnus to the ISS. This led to the boost phase being approximately 5.5 seconds shorter than had been planned.

China begins assembly of new Long March 5 heavy-lift launcher

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 29th China is moving on with the expansion of its already broad rocket fleet. The country recently announced it has started the assembly of a next-generation Long March 5 launch vehicle. This heavy-lift booster, which will be used for a variety of space missions, is currently scheduled to conduct its maiden flight in September 2016.

Industry input sought for next NASA Mars orbiter

Laurel KornfeldApril 29th NASA is seeking ideas for a high-tech, state-of-the-art Mars orbiter, which is scheduled to be launched in the early 2020s. This is one of many steps in the agency's long-term goal of putting human astronauts on the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

Cassini confirms methane sea on Titan

Jim SharkeyApril 29th Saturn's moon Titan is the only moon in the Solar System that has a dense atmosphere and large liquid reserves on its surface. A new study using data gathered by NASA's Cassini mission finds that Ligeia Mare, the second largest of Titan's seas, is composed mostly of pure liquid methane. The findings provide independent confirmation of an earlier study.

Japan ends efforts to restore contact with Hitomi X-ray telescope

Derek RichardsonApril 28th The ASTRO-H (Hitomi) telescope suffered an anomaly on March 27, resulting in the vehicle ceasing communications and separating into multiple pieces. Efforts by JAXA to restore the spacecraft were ended on April 28. The agency will now focus on investigating the cause of the incident.

Hubble detects small moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake

Laurel KornfeldApril 28th Dwarf planet Makemake, the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt, is orbited by a small, dark moon. The satellite was discovered by a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) from observations conducted in April 2015.

Former SpaceX founding members unveil Vector Space Systems

Jason RhianApril 28th If the NewSpace era has become known for anything, it's for the diversity of players it has brought to the market. In one recent case, one of the core companies of the NewSpace movement has seen founding members of SpaceX form their own company—Vector Space Systems.

India launches its final IRNSS navigation satellite

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 28th The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched the last spacecraft of its homegrown navigation satellite system. The satellite, designated IRNSS-1G, lifted off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on Thursday, April 28, at 3:20 a.m. EDT (07:20 GMT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Vostochny Cosmodrome debuts with the successful launch of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 27th Roscosmos has successfully conducted the first launch from Russia's newly built Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the country’s Far East. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket, carrying a trio of Russian satellites, became the first vehicle to lift off from the just-opened spaceport.

ULA: Issue with Atlas V’s MRCV responsible for March 22 in-flight anomaly

Jason RhianApril 29th Engineers with ULA have determined an anomaly with the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve assembly caused a reduction in fuel flow during the March 22 flight of an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying the OA-6 Cygnus to the ISS. This led to the boost phase being approximately 5.5 seconds shorter than had been planned.

China begins assembly of new Long March 5 heavy-lift launcher

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 29th China is moving on with the expansion of its already broad rocket fleet. The country recently announced it has started the assembly of a next-generation Long March 5 launch vehicle. This heavy-lift booster, which will be used for a variety of space missions, is currently scheduled to conduct its maiden flight in September 2016.

Japan ends efforts to restore contact with Hitomi X-ray telescope

Derek RichardsonApril 28th The ASTRO-H (Hitomi) telescope suffered an anomaly on March 27, resulting in the vehicle ceasing communications and separating into multiple pieces. Efforts by JAXA to restore the spacecraft were ended on April 28. The agency will now focus on investigating the cause of the incident.

India launches its final IRNSS navigation satellite

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 28th The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched the last spacecraft of its homegrown navigation satellite system. The satellite, designated IRNSS-1G, lifted off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on Thursday, April 28, at 3:20 a.m. EDT (07:20 GMT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Vostochny Cosmodrome debuts with the successful launch of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 27th Roscosmos has successfully conducted the first launch from Russia's newly built Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the country’s Far East. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket, carrying a trio of Russian satellites, became the first vehicle to lift off from the just-opened spaceport.

India to complete homegrown navigational satellite system with launch of IRNSS-1G

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 27th The ISRO is about to launch its last navigational satellite for the indigenous IRNSS system. The spacecraft, designated IRNSS-1G, will be launched on April 28, atop the country’s PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Liftoff is currently set for 3:20 a.m. EDT (7:20 GMT).

Inaugural Vostochny launch delayed 24 hours

Derek RichardsonApril 26th The planned first launch of a Soyuz rocket from Russia's newly built Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the country's Far East, was postponed 24 hours, according to the Russian News Agency TASS. The reason behind the Soyuz-2.1a launch delay has not been made clear, however.

Off-world marathon record set by British astronaut

Derek RichardsonApril 26th Running a marathon is difficult enough; 44-year-old British astronaut Tim Peake completed one on April 24—on a treadmill in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) when he virtually ran in the London Marathon. As a bonus, he set a record for the fastest marathon completed in space—three hours, 35 minutes.

Soyuz ST-A soars into sky with cluster of European satellites

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 25th A Soyuz ST-A took to the skies on April 25. It was tasked with orbiting several satellites designed for Earth observation and other research. The rocket lifted off at 6:02 p.m. GFT (5:02 p.m. EDT / 21:02 GMT) from Guiana Space Centre's Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS) in Sinnamary, French Guiana.

Russia’s Vostochny spaceport to debut with the launch of Soyuz-2.1a rocket

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 25th After being troubled by numerous setbacks and delays, Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome is finally ready and all set for its debut launch this week. The spaceport, located in the Amur Region in the Russian Far East, will inaugurate its operations with the flight of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying a trio of satellites.

SpaceX hoping to repeat ocean-landing with May 3 launch

Jason RhianApril 24th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is hoping for a repeat performance of the landing success that it achieved on April 8, 2016. Although the 45th Space Wing, who manage the Eastern Range, have stated no official launch date has been announced, an attempt could be made to launch the JCSAT-14 satellite as early as May 3.

Technical issue delays Sentinel-1B mission

Derek RichardsonApril 24th KOUROU, French Guiana — After two delays due to unacceptable weather conditions, the third launch attempt of the Soyuz STA carrying the Sentinel-1B mission was called off about 45 minutes prior to liftoff due to a technical issue on the booster.

ISS crew tackles advanced science, Tim Peake preps for marathon

Derek RichardsonApril 23rd After a busy month of visiting vehicle traffic, along with the addition of a new module to the International Space Station (ISS), the Expedition 47 crew is settling in for a period of nearly uninterrupted science and outpost maintenance.

Weather causes 24-hour delay for Soyuz-STA flight of Sentinel-1B

Jason RhianApril 22nd KOUROU, French Guiana — Prior to the fueling of the Arianespace Soyuz-STA rocket, the technical review determined that the weather conditions at the launch site in Sinnamary, French Guiana, were not optimal and the launch has been delayed 24 hours.

Arianespace to launch Soyuz rocket with European satellites

Tomasz NowakowskiApril 21st KOUROU, French Guiana — Arianespace is preparing to launch a set of European satellites designed for Earth observation, astrophysical research, and educational purposes. The spacecraft is scheduled to be sent on its way atop a Soyuz-STA rocket at 5:02 p.m. EDT (21:02 GMT) Friday, April 22, from the Soyuz Launch Complex.

NASA taps Aerojet Rocketdyne to produce deep space solar electric propulsion systems

Jason RhianApril 20th NASA has said it is planning on sending crews to Mars in the 2030s. To get them there, the space agency will need new technologies. One of these, solar electric propulsion is something that, while not entirely new, could be of great use to the agency as it looks to reignite its crewed exploration of deep space.

OneWeb announces Florida-based satellite production facility

Jason RhianApril 19th KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Satellite manufacturer OneWeb is thinking about oranges, Sun-drenched beaches, and Disney World... well, sort of. The Channel Islands-based company has inked an agreement with Space Florida that could see as many as 250 high-tech jobs brought to Florida's Space Coast.

Welding completed on first piece of SLS Exploration Mission 1 hardware

Jason RhianApril 18th The engine section of NASA's new SLS rocket has undergone final welding at the space agency's Michoud Assembly Facility located near New Orleans. This is the first major piece of flight hardware to finish welding prior to Exploration Mission 1 – an all-important test flight of the new rocket.

Our SpaceFlight Heritage: Apollo 13 – NASA’s successful failure

David DarlingApril 17th KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — It was the most harrowing period of the Apollo era, Apollo 13. Luckily for the crew, the team at NASA's Mission Control Center came through with flying colors and it came to its conclusion on this date in space flight history – April 17, 1970.

BEAM attached to the International Space Station

Derek RichardsonApril 16th A first-of-its-kind module—Bigelow Aerospace's Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)—was attached to the International Space Station (ISS) this morning after the robotic Canadarm2 removed it from the trunk of SpaceX’s CRS-8 Dragon cargo ship currently berthed to the orbiting lab.

The Range

Proposal for extended New Horizons mission submitted to NASA

April 30th
An extended mission proposal featuring a close flyby of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) along with distant observations of 20 more KBOs and further study of the environment of the outer solar system has been submitted to NASA by the New Horizons team.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s $67M contract with NASA set to develop new SEP system

April 30th
NASA announced last week their selection of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., of Redmond, Washington, to develop a newly advanced electric propulsion system. The new system is the next step in NASA's Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) project, which is developing new technologies to expand the range and capabilities of future science and exploration missions.

SpaceX releases 360-degree view of CRS-8 landing

April 29th
SpaceX has released a 360 degree view of the April 8, 2016 landing of the Falcon 9 FT rocket's first stage returning from sending the CRS-8 Dragon on its way to the International Space Station.

Industry input sought for next NASA Mars orbiter

April 29th
NASA is seeking ideas for a high-tech, state-of-the-art Mars orbiter, which is scheduled to be launched in the early 2020s. This is one of many steps in the agency's long-term goal of putting human astronauts on the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.

Cassini confirms methane sea on Titan

April 29th
Saturn's moon Titan is the only moon in the Solar System that has a dense atmosphere and large liquid reserves on its surface. A new study using data gathered by NASA's Cassini mission finds that Ligeia Mare, the second largest of Titan's seas, is composed mostly of pure liquid methane. The findings provide independent confirmation of an earlier study.

Hubble detects small moon orbiting dwarf planet Makemake

April 28th
Dwarf planet Makemake, the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt, is orbited by a small, dark moon. The satellite was discovered by a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) from observations conducted in April 2015.

Former SpaceX founding members unveil Vector Space Systems

April 28th
If the NewSpace era has become known for anything, it's for the diversity of players it has brought to the market. In one recent case, one of the core companies of the NewSpace movement has seen founding members of SpaceX form their own company—Vector Space Systems.

China aims to reach Mars in 2021

April 27th
Mars is about to get a little more crowded as another spacefaring nation revealed strong ambitions to send a spacecraft there. The mission is high on China’s priority list as it will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Communist Party.

Hab at it: NASA looking for space habitat concepts

April 27th
NASA is looking for new habitat concepts. Of course, it pays if you're an aerospace firm with the resources to produce the habs needed for deep space destinations such as an asteroid or Mars.

Halo craters on Pluto pose a mystery; NASA media liaison relives the flyby

April 26th
Pluto's surface seems to have an endless array of mysterious features, the latest being craters that appear to be surrounded by bright halos on the far west of New Horizons' encounter side.

Orbital ATK, ULA mark 500th composite structure’s production

April 25th
IUKA, Miss. — When you think of Mississippi aerospace, NASA's Stennis Space Center probably first comes to mind. However, another aerospace "outpost" is located in the northeast corner of the state – Orbital ATK's Large Structures Center of Excellence. It is at this location that an important milestone had been reached.

Keeping fit in space a real workout for NASA human research teams

April 24th
British astronaut Tim Peake will be joining other runners of the 2016 London Marathon when he runs it from 250 miles (402 km) high on the International Space Station (ISS). Peake trained for the marathon for months on Earth as he prepared for ISS Expeditions 46/47, and he has continued to train in space since his arrival at the station Dec. 15 of last year.

Weather delays Sentinel-1B mission again

April 23rd
KOUROU, French Guiana — Weather conditions dipped into the red again in the jungles of Kourou, French Guiana, causing another slip of the Sentinel-1B mission. Liftoff had been slated for 6:02:13 GFT (5:02:13 p.m. EDT). This has now been pushed back an additional 24 hours due, yet again, to the weather.

New Orbital ATK launch vehicle looking to call Kennedy Space Center home

April 22nd
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK has entered into negotiations with NASA to use the VAB's High Bay 2 at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use on a new launch vehicle. Few details have come out about this new rocket and NASA only noted that the agreement will also include the use of a mobile launcher platform.

Dawn’s closest views of Ceres show bright craters

April 22nd
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has given scientists spectacular close-up images of Ceres from its lowest mapping orbit of 240 miles (385 kilometers) above the dwarf planet's surface. The images provide the best views so far of several craters and other features on Ceres.

New Horizons mission extension submitted to NASA; images of Pluto’s hazes show new detail

April 21st
As NASA's New Horizons probe reached the halfway mark in sending back data from July's Pluto flyby, members of the mission team submitted an extended mission proposal to NASA outlining a close flyby of a small Kuiper Belt Object on New Year's Day 2019.

Our SpaceFlight Heritage: Descartes and the voyage of Apollo 16

April 20th
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The public often forgets that there were six successful crewed missions to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the late 60s and early 70s. Apollo 16 was the next-to-last mission and would see crews sent to the lunar highlands for the first time ever. 

China’s retrievable research spacecraft returns to Earth

April 19th
China has successfully concluded its recoverable research mission, known as Shijian-10 (SJ-10), with the landing of the satellite’s re-entry capsule on Monday, April 18. The return vehicle touched down at about 4:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 GMT) at the planned landing site in Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The little lander that could: the legacy of Philae

April 18th
Philae, the little lander that was declared lost by the European Space Agency (ESA) earlier this year, has achieved a great deal despite its relatively short operational life on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Future comet-landing missions will likely build upon the legacy that this small wayward probe has left behind.

Review – Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History

April 17th
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Visitors to Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 34 might view the site as a forlorn relic of a bygone age, an era when humans walked on another world. For others, it stands as mute testimony to past lessons learned – which should not be forgotten in the future. As NASA looks to destinations deep in space, one author and space historian takes us back to the earliest days of space exploration.