Spaceflight Insider

Classified NROl-45 mission departs Vandenberg under cover of night

Jason RhianFebruary 10th Marking the second flight to depart from the Western Range in 2016, United Launch Alliance (ULA), sent the NROL-45 mission aloft on a ULA Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from Space Launch Complex 6 located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Liftoff occurred at 3:39 a.m. PST (11:00 GMT).

New Horizons could help us locate possible planets beyond Neptune

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 10th The recent discovery of evidence of a giant planet lurking in the outskirts of the Solar System made by Caltech astronomers has re-ignited the discussion about the existence of planets beyond Neptune. We could be really on the verge of confirming the presence of a hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, our messenger to Pluto and trans-Neptunian objects might have the final word in this debate.

North Korean satellite experiences problems in orbit

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 10th The North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite, which was launched into space last weekend, has now been stabilized after initially "tumbling" in its orbit. Earlier reports had said that due to the difficulties, the spacecraft is incapable of functioning in any useful way. It is still unknown if the satellite is transmitting any data.

Video: SFI launch highlights for GPS IIF-12

Jason RhianFebruary 9th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceFlight Insider sets up an array of still and video stations for virtually all of the launches that take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This past week, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 sent the GPS IIF-12 satellite to orbit – and we captured the flight in all its spectacular glory.

ULA Delta IV with classified NRO payload set for Feb. 10 launch from Vandenberg

Jason RhianFebruary 9th ULA, the U.S. Air Force's 30th Space Wing, and the National Reconnaissance Office are eyeing a Wednesday, Feb. 10, launch for a ULA Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket and its secret NROL-45 payload. The mission is set to get underway at 3:39 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-6.

Cage match for next Orion capsule at Kennedy Space Center

Joe LatrellFebruary 8th After a quick trip from Louisiana to Florida via the Super Guppy transport, the latest Orion crew module was mated with the "birdcage" – a structural assembly system. This is just the latest step in the lead up to the fully integrated flight of Orion and NASA's Space Launch System booster – slated for late 2018.

North Korea launches long-range rocket with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 7th North Korea carried out a launch on Sunday, Feb. 7, sending a long-range rocket into space in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions. The rocket lifted off at 9:00 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province.

Russia launches its latest GLONASS-M navigation satellite into orbit

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 7th A Russian Soyuz-2.1b rocket thundered into space from Site 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Region of Russia. Its payload was the latest GLONASS-M satellite. Liftoff took place at 7:21 p.m. EST on Saturday, Feb. 6 (0:21 GMT on Sunday, Feb. 7).

Bizarre, ‘floating’ terrain discovered on Pluto

Jason RhianFebruary 7th When it gets as cold as it does in the outer Solar System... things get strange. This was demonstrated in recent imagery provided by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft currently on its way to its secondary target, 2014 MU69. Hills of water ice appear to be 'floating' on glaciers made of frozen nitrogen in pictures beamed back by the spacecraft.

Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell passes away at age 85

Eric ShearFebruary 6th Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell passed away on Feb. 4, 2016, peacefully at a hospice located in Lake Worth, Florida. He was the sixth man to walk on the Moon, as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14. His time in space totaled nine days and one minute, including 9 hours and 23 minutes on two moonwalks.

First GPS III satellite completes thermal vacuum test

Derek RichardsonFebruary 6th Lockheed Martin announced on Feb. 3 that the first Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite completed a system level thermal vacuum test, validating the design can operate in the extreme environment of space.

SFI Live: Launch Coverage of ULA Atlas V 401 with GPS IIF-12

Jason RhianFebruary 5th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — United Launch Alliance (ULA) has one of their venerable Atlas V 401 rockets poised at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. SpaceFlight Insider will begin its live launch coverage from the Cape's ITL Causeway at 8 a.m. EST (13:00 GMT).

Classified NROl-45 mission departs Vandenberg under cover of night

Jason RhianFebruary 10th Marking the second flight to depart from the Western Range in 2016, United Launch Alliance (ULA), sent the NROL-45 mission aloft on a ULA Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from Space Launch Complex 6 located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Liftoff occurred at 3:39 a.m. PST (11:00 GMT).

ULA Delta IV with classified NRO payload set for Feb. 10 launch from Vandenberg

Jason RhianFebruary 9th ULA, the U.S. Air Force's 30th Space Wing, and the National Reconnaissance Office are eyeing a Wednesday, Feb. 10, launch for a ULA Delta IV Medium+ 5,2 rocket and its secret NROL-45 payload. The mission is set to get underway at 3:39 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex-6.

Cage match for next Orion capsule at Kennedy Space Center

Joe LatrellFebruary 8th After a quick trip from Louisiana to Florida via the Super Guppy transport, the latest Orion crew module was mated with the "birdcage" – a structural assembly system. This is just the latest step in the lead up to the fully integrated flight of Orion and NASA's Space Launch System booster – slated for late 2018.

North Korea launches long-range rocket with Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 7th North Korea carried out a launch on Sunday, Feb. 7, sending a long-range rocket into space in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions. The rocket lifted off at 9:00 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province.

Russia launches its latest GLONASS-M navigation satellite into orbit

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 7th A Russian Soyuz-2.1b rocket thundered into space from Site 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Region of Russia. Its payload was the latest GLONASS-M satellite. Liftoff took place at 7:21 p.m. EST on Saturday, Feb. 6 (0:21 GMT on Sunday, Feb. 7).

SFI Live: Launch Coverage of ULA Atlas V 401 with GPS IIF-12

Jason RhianFebruary 5th CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — United Launch Alliance (ULA) has one of their venerable Atlas V 401 rockets poised at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. SpaceFlight Insider will begin its live launch coverage from the Cape's ITL Causeway at 8 a.m. EST (13:00 GMT).

India’s first solar mission to be launched in 2019–20

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 4th The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has recently announced that its first solar mission, named Aditya-L1, will be launched in 2019–20. The spacecraft aims to answer fundamental questions in solar physics by studying dynamic processes on the Sun.

Second spacewalk of 2016 conducted by cosmonaut duo

Derek RichardsonFebruary 3rd Two Russian cosmonauts stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Feb. 3 to retrieve and deploy several experiments and the Zvezda and Poisk modules of the Russian Orbital Segment.

ULA set to complete Block IIF GPS constellation

Florida TechFebruary 3rd CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For ULA's first mission of 2016, the company is looking to carry out their 60th operational GPS launch utilizing an Atlas V 401 to deliver the GPS IIF-12 satellite to orbit on Feb. 5, 2016. This mission should be the final installment of the Block IIF GPS satellites to be launched for the U.S.A.F.

Todd May named director of Marshall Space Flight Center

Scott JohnsonFebruary 2nd HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Earlier this week, NASA announced that Todd May has been named director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. May was appointed as MSFC's deputy director in August 2015 and has served as acting director since former director Patrick Scheuermann retired in November of last year.

China successfully launches BDS M3-S satellite for its homegrown BeiDou navigation system

Tomasz NowakowskiFebruary 1st A Chinese Long March 3C carrier rocket has successfully lofted a new-generation satellite, designated BDS M3-S, for the country’s indigenous BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. The spacecraft was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 2:29 a.m. EST (7:29 GMT) on Monday, Feb. 1.

NASA’s ‘Super Guppy’ delivers EM-1 Orion to Kennedy Space Center

Jason RhianFebruary 1st KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — One of NASA's more unique aircraft touched down at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. Safely cocooned within was the Orion spacecraft selected to carry out Exploration Mission 1 – the first integrated flight of Orion and the SLS rocket.

NASA’s EM-1 Orion spacecraft ready to ship to Florida

Scott JohnsonJanuary 30th NEW ORLEANS, La. — On Jan. 26, NASA and Lockheed Martin hosted members of the media at the agency's MAF, to view the recently completed EM-1 Orion pressure vessel – the underlying structure on which all of the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems will be built and integrated.

Proton-M successfully lofts Eutelsat 9B communications satellite

Tomasz NowakowskiJanuary 29th ILS has successfully conducted its first flight of 2016, sending the Eutelsat 9B communications satellite to orbit. Liftoff of the Proton-M rocket carrying the spacecraft took place at 5:20 p.m. EST (22:20 GMT) from Launch Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA’s Bill Hill talks SLS scheduling and Exploration Upper Stage

Scott JohnsonJanuary 29th NEW ORLEANS, La. — On Jan. 26, while at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, SpaceFlight Insider had the chance to speak with Bill Hill, the agency's deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, and Steve Doering, SLS' Core Stage manager. During our conversation, we gained an update on key SLS issues.

SpaceX tests parachute system to be used on crew-rated Dragon

Jason RhianJanuary 28th Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX has successfully completed a parachute test of the firm's Crew Dragon spacecraft. The test took place near Coolidge, Arizona, and was conducted under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Proton-M rocket carrying Eutelsat 9B communications satellite set for launch from Baikonur

Tomasz NowakowskiJanuary 28th The ILS company is set to launch its Proton-M rocket on Friday, Jan. 29. The booster is being sent aloft to deliver the Eutelsat 9B communications satellite to orbit. Liftoff is scheduled to take place at 5:20 p.m. EST (22:20 GMT) from Launch Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Ariane 5 launches Intelsat 29e on first Arianespace flight of 2016

Jose FloresJanuary 27th The skies above the Guiana Space Centre's launch pad ELA-3 came to life at approximately 6:20 p.m. EST (23:20 GMT) on Jan. 27, 2016, with the thunderous roar and blinding light of an Ariane 5 breaking its Earthly bonds and accelerating skyward – the first to do so this year.

Intelsat 29e set to launch tomorrow on Ariane 5

Jose FloresJanuary 26th The first Arianespace Ariane 5 launch of 2016, mission designated VA228, is set to lift off Wednesday, Jan. 27, carrying Intelsat 29e, Intelsat's next generation communications satellite, into geostationary orbit. This mission differs from usual Ariane 5 launches in that the Intelsat 29e will be the heavy-lift launcher's only passenger.

NASA counting on humanoid robots for deep space exploration

Tomasz NowakowskiJanuary 26th As NASA moves out into space, it will need to prepare for harsh environments such as those crews to Mars would encounter. Having operational robots help assist in tasks could be critical during missions beyond Earth. NASA is considering this matter and it could usher in a new age of humanoid robots.

The Range

New Horizons could help us locate possible planets beyond Neptune

February 10th
The recent discovery of evidence of a giant planet lurking in the outskirts of the Solar System made by Caltech astronomers has re-ignited the discussion about the existence of planets beyond Neptune. We could be really on the verge of confirming the presence of a hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, our messenger to Pluto and trans-Neptunian objects might have the final word in this debate.

North Korean satellite experiences problems in orbit

February 10th
The North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite, which was launched into space last weekend, has now been stabilized after initially "tumbling" in its orbit. Earlier reports had said that due to the difficulties, the spacecraft is incapable of functioning in any useful way. It is still unknown if the satellite is transmitting any data.

Video: SFI launch highlights for GPS IIF-12

February 9th
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceFlight Insider sets up an array of still and video stations for virtually all of the launches that take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This past week, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 sent the GPS IIF-12 satellite to orbit – and we captured the flight in all its spectacular glory.

Bizarre, ‘floating’ terrain discovered on Pluto

February 7th
When it gets as cold as it does in the outer Solar System... things get strange. This was demonstrated in recent imagery provided by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft currently on its way to its secondary target, 2014 MU69. Hills of water ice appear to be 'floating' on glaciers made of frozen nitrogen in pictures beamed back by the spacecraft.

Apollo 14’s Edgar Mitchell passes away at age 85

February 6th
Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell passed away on Feb. 4, 2016, peacefully at a hospice located in Lake Worth, Florida. He was the sixth man to walk on the Moon, as the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14. His time in space totaled nine days and one minute, including 9 hours and 23 minutes on two moonwalks.

First GPS III satellite completes thermal vacuum test

February 6th
Lockheed Martin announced on Feb. 3 that the first Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite completed a system level thermal vacuum test, validating the design can operate in the extreme environment of space.

‘S’ in SLS’ could stand for ‘science’ for Exploration Mission 1

February 4th
One of the criticisms of NASA's SLS has been the lack of science missions planned for the heavy-lift launch vehicle. On Tuesday, NASA worked to address those concerns with the announcement of the Science and Technology missions that have been chosen for the first SLS flight – EM 1.

New infrared images reveal Pluto’s water ice, blue atmosphere

February 1st
Infrared images taken by New Horizons' Ralph/Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) instrument released this week show plentiful water ice on Pluto's surface as well as new details of its otherworldly, layered blue atmosphere.

Animation shows Ceres’ colors, terrains, 215 years after discovery

January 31st
Using images taken by the Dawn spacecraft, members of the mission's framing camera team created an animation simulating the various features and terrains that a viewer would see if he or she actually had the opportunity to fly over Ceres.

Our SpaceFlight Heritage: Explorer 1 and the birth of the U.S. Space Program

January 31st
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Today, the world takes satellite launches for granted. With two (or more) taking place during any given month. Fifty-eight years ago on this date in space flight history, however, there had only been two satellites sent into orbit – and they were both from the Soviet Union. Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, and Sputnik 2 on Nov. 3, 1957. The U.S. was under pressure to match these feats – something that it would try to do with Explorer 1.

Space Coast community reflects on fallen astronauts

January 30th
For the third time this week, residents and visitors to Florida’s Brevard County gathered to pay their respects to the fallen heroes of the U.S. Space Program, astronauts who lost their lives while performing mission-related duties. Beginning with a chorus from the children of the Sculptor Charter School Choir, the service got underway with about 100 residents, visitors, and dignitaries present.

Curiosity’s study of Martian sands halted due to anomaly

January 29th
As NASA's Curiosity rover studies an active sand dune, it is adding some sample-handling procedures not previously used on Mars. Sand from the second and third that the rover is scooping from "Namib Dune" will be sorted by grain size using two sieves, employing its coarser sieve for the first time.

Apollo One Crew remembered nearly a half-century after accident

January 28th
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Jan. 27, 2016 — Family and friends of the Apollo One crew gathered for an evening memorial service and celebration of life, hosted by the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SBIRS completes readiness milestone

January 28th
The Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, along with the 460th Space Wing, announced last week that the Space Based Infrared System's Block 10 Integrated Test and Evaluation (IT&E) Readiness Soak had been completed successfully.

Our Spaceflight Heritage: Remembering Challenger

January 28th
On Jan. 28, 1986, a “routine” shuttle launch turned into a monumental tragedy that forever altered the course of the Space Shuttle Program, and from which NASA – and the nation – never fully recovered.

Opinion: Ad astra per aspera – Do I have a role in this shared journey to the stars? Do you?

January 27th
Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Commander of the ill-fated Apollo 1, once wrote, "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."

Euclid spacecraft set to unravel the universe’s mysteries

January 27th
Dark matter and dark energy are two of the greatest mysteries of the universe, perplexing scientists worldwide. Solving these scientific riddles may require a comprehensive approach in which theories, computations and ground-based observations are complemented by a fleet of spacecraft studying the "dark" universe.

Technical concerns delay launch of ULA Atlas V with GPS IIF-12

January 26th
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket and its payload of the last Block IIF Global Positioning Satellite has been delayed by at least 24 hours to no-earlier-than Feb. 4, 2016. According to ULA, the cause of this slip were "concerns over the integrity of electrical connectors on the Atlas V booster."

Upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 certified for National Security Space launches

January 26th
The United States Air Force's Program Executive Officer for Space and Space and Missile Systems Center, Lt. Gen Samuel Greaves, has approved the newly-upgraded SpaceX "Full Thrust" Falcon 9 rocket for use on National Security Space (NSS) missions.

Inside Opportunity: Twelve years and counting…

January 25th
Twelve years ago today on Jan. 25, 2004, was the day that MER-B, Opportunity, was scheduled to land on the Red Planet. Before the many milestones and discoveries that the robotic geologist would make could occur, it had to survive seven minutes of atmospheric entry.