Zero-G News
Volume 14; Issue 348 ~ Zero-G News (ISSN 2333-7257) ~ A Publication Of Ares Institute, Inc.
Breaking News
Successful First Test Fire For Blue Origin BE-4 Engine
Marking a major milestone that bodes well for both...
Bigelow, ULA Announce Plans To Establish Lunar Outpost
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Classified NROL-52 Satellite
After four scrubbed attempts because of weather and technical...
NASA Awards Contract for Integration, Launch Services of U-Class Payloads
NASA Awards Contract for Integration, Launch Services of U-Class...
NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid CubeSat Goes Full Sail
NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite the size...
NASA Tests First 3-D Printed Rocket Engine Part Made with Two Different Alloys
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,...
With Irma On The Horizon, Falcon 9 Successfully Orbits The X-37B OTV-5 Mission
Racing to beat hurricane Irma looming offshore, SpaceX successfully...
Successful Debut For Minotaur IV At Cape Canaveral
In a historic first, after waiting out inclement weather,...
Atlas V Successfully Orbits Final Next-Generation TDRS Spacecraft
Marking the end of an era, NASA’s Tracking and...
Falcon Blasts Off On Another Mission To Resupply ISS
Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson’s disease and...
SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Blasts Off On Second Mission To Resupply ISS
Major experiments that will look into the human body...
Rocket Lab Conducts Historic Test Flight Of Electron Launch Vehicle
Rocket Lab broke new ground today when its Electron...
Falcon 9 Successfully Deploys Its Heaviest Geosynchronous Comsat To Date
Demonstrating SpaceX”s ramped-up two missions per month launch rate,...
Startup Company Vector Space Systems’ Vector-R Rocket Makes Its First Test Flight
Vector, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of...
NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies
NASA has selected 10 studies under the Planetary Science...
Delta IV Lights Up The Night To Deliver Advanced Military Communications Satellite
Blazing a fiery trail in the sky above Cape...
Falcon 9 Lofts Commercial Satellite On Second Launch From LC-39A
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully orbited the EchoStar XXIII...
NASA Preps Cygnus For Third Flight On Atlas
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is being prepped for it...
Booster Issue Delays Delta IV / WGS-9 Launch
United Launch Alliance announced this evening that the launch...
Atlas V Wins NASA’s JPSS-2 Launch Contract
NASA’s Launch Services Program has selected United Launch Alliance’s...
Atlas V Lofts NROL-79 For The National Reconnaissance Office
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a...
Goddard’s IceCube SmallSat Ready for Launch, Space Station Deployment
Less is more, and that’s not just a buzz...
SpaceX Surprises With Planned Human Lunar Mission Announcement
Elon Musk is not someone who could be described...
CubeSats: Shaping Possibilities in Space
For more than a decade, CubeSats, or small satellites, have...
Falcon 9 Soars On Historic Launch From KSC
Nearly five years after the final space shuttle mission...
NASA Announces Eighth Class of Candidates for Launch of CubeSat Space Missions
NASA has selected 34 small satellites from 19 states...
NASA And NanoRacks Parter On First Commercial ISS Airlock
The International Space Station allows NASA to conduct cutting-edge...
NASA Langley Ozone Sensor Set for Launch to Space Station
Brooke Thornton has devoted eight years to a project...
NASA Sounding Rocket Successfully Launches into Alaskan Night
An experiment to measure nitric oxide in the polar...
Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Day of Remembrance Honors Fallen Astronauts
On Jan. 26, 2017, Kennedy Space Center employees and...
Atlas Begins 2017 With Successful Launch Of Missile Warning Satellite
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched...
Falcon 9 Returns To Flight To Orbit Next-Generation Iridium Spacecraft
Four and a half months after a devastating explosion...
NASA Awards Contract for Series of CubeSat Technology Missions
NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program has selected Tyvak Nanosatellite...
SpaceX Falcon 9 / Iridium NEXT FAA Launch License
Comments What do you think?
NASA Orders Additional Commercial Crew Flights From Boeing, SpaceX
NASA took another big step to ensure reliable crew...
NASA Selects Mission to Study Black Holes, Cosmic X-ray Mysteries
NASA has selected a science mission that will allow...
SpaceX Pinpoints Cause Of Falcon 9 Explosion, Targets Launch Next Week
Four months after a massive fireball destroyed a Falcon...
Next-Generation Weather Satellite Successfully Launches On Atlas V
Perched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket,...
Antares Returns To Flight Carrying Critical Supplies For ISS
Orbital ATK successfully launched its Antares rocket carrying a...
NASA Prepares The Next-Generation Of Weather Satellite For Launch
On September 27, NASA offered members of the media...
Falcon 9 Accident Traced To Upper Stage Helium System Breach
(Editor’s Note: This is an update provided to Zero-G...
Orbital ATK Sets Target Window For Antares Return-To-Flight
Orbital ATK is targeting no earlier than Oct. 9-13,...
United Launch Alliance Announces CubeSat STEM Education Program Winners
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected four proposals from...
KSC Visitor Complex Destination: Mars Experience Offers A Virtual Reality Tour Of Mars
A walk on Mars may be in the future...
Emergency management: A behind the scenes look on the Eastern Range
Last week, the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team...
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Seven-Year Odyssey To Sample An Asteroid
Blazing a trail into the early evening sky, the...
Firing Up Rocket Engine Tests
A 100-pound liquid oxygen/liquid methane engine fires up after...
SpaceX Begins Test Fire Series On Landed Falcon 9 First Stage
Looking to re-launch one of their succeffully-landed Falcon 9...
NASA Orders Second Commercial Crew Dragon Mission From SpaceX
NASA took another important step Friday in returning U.S....
Atlas V Launches Classified Communications Relay Satellite For NRO
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying...
SpaceX Launches 9th Cargo Mission To ISS, Delivers Groundbreaking Science
Instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space,...
Orbital ATK Conducts Final Qualification Test For Space Launch System Booster
A booster for the most powerful rocket in the...
Delta IV Blazes The Night Sky To Launch Clandestine Spy Satellite
Just five days after successfully orbiting the GPS IIF-12...
Final Block 2 GPS Satellite Launches On Atlas V
Continuing a record of perfect mission reliability, a United...
Falcon 9 Returns To Flight, Completes Historic First Earth Landing
Plummeting through the black sky above Cape Canaveral at...
SpaceX Targets December 19 Falcon 9 Return To Flight
Nearly six months after a space station resupply mission...
Cygnus Returns To Space Riding The Powerful Atlas Rocket
Space station cargo resupply missions from U.S. soil resumed...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Penultimate GPF IIF Series Spacecraft
Soaring through a crystal-clear autumn afternoon, a United Launch...
United Launch Alliance Marks 100th Launch With Morelos-3 Success
United Launch Alliance successfully launched its 100th mission today...
Atlas Successfully Deploys Fourth Mobile Comsat For U.S. Navy
Putting on a spectacular pre-sunrise light show, a United...
NASA Awards Grants For Transformative Space Technologies
NASA has selected eight university-led proposals to study innovative,...
Space Launch System RS-25 Main Engine Completes Key Full-Duration Test
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed a full duration (535...
Orbital ATK Updates Progress On ISS Cargo Delivery Program
Orbital ATK is on track to launch its next...
Orion Spacecraft Begins Critical Design Review Milestone
NASA’s Orion Program kicked off its critical design review...
NASA’s Space Launch System Passes Critical Design Review Milestone
You know the feeling of pride and achievement when...
Delta IV Launches High Capacity Digital WGS-7 Military Comsat
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket successfully...
Kennedy Space Center Opens New Small Vehicle Launch Complex
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida took another step...
Atlas Delivers Again With Newest Air Force GPS Satellite
The newest member of the the Air Force’s worldwide...
NASA Names First Four Commercial Crew Program Astronauts
As Boeing and SpaceX continue working toward the goal...
Video Feature: SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-7 Launch In Slow Motion
During this month’s launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9...
SpaceX Delays Crucial Test, Moves Crew Dragon Abort Test To KSC
Following the successful pad abort test in May, SpaceX...
First Falcon 9 Loss Leaves SpaceX Reeling, Challenges ISS Resupply Lines
Sunday’s loss of the 19th Falcon 9 rocket on...
NASA Launches Suborbital Rocket From Wallops With Student Experiments
NASA successfully launched a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding...
NASA Hosts Rocket Week at Wallops Flight Facility
Students and educators from across the country will have...
Atlas V Launches Secret X-37B Spaceplane And Novel Solar Sail Experiment
With help from NASA, a small research satellite to...
SpaceX Successfully Completes Crew Dragon PAd Abort Test
A loud whoosh, faint smoke trail and billowing parachutes...
Five Things To Know About Dragon’s Pad Abort Test
Crew Dragon’s first critical flight test, known as a...
Blue Origin Conducts First Test Flight Of New Shepard Suborbital Rocket
Secretive space startup Blue Origin achieved a significant milestone...
NASA Launches RockSat-X Sounding Rocket With University Payloads
A NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket carrying the...
Falcon 9 Blasts Off With Cargo Supporting NASA’s One-Year Mission
Two tons of supplies and research cargo are headed...
Blue Origin Completes Acceptance Testing of New Shepard BE-3 Engine
Blue Origin recently completed acceptance testing of its BE‑3...
NASA’s Space Launch System to Boost Science with Secondary Payloads
When NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) launches on...
American And Russian Begin Yearlong Orbital Journey
ISS One-Year Mission Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-16M Launch Coverage...
Delta IV Hits The Mark With Another Successful GPS Launch
Piercing a thick layer of clouds that hung low...
United Launch Alliance Lets The Public Name Its New Rocket
ULA is offering the public the opportunity to select...
SpaceX Clarifies Reason For TurkmenAlem52E Launch Delay
Over the weekend, SpaceX filled in some of the...
NASA Provides Space Access for University Developed Experiments during March 27 Flight
NASA will fly six university experiments developed by undergraduate...
Lockheed Martin Pitches Novel Concept For CRS-2 ISS Resupply
On May 10, 1869, Leland Stanford raised a hammer...
Aerojet Rocketdyne Gets Fired Up About 3D Printing
Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3d printing, has been...
ULA, SpaceX Go Head-To-Head At House Armed Services Cmte Hearing
United Launch Alliance (ULA) President and CEO Tory Bruno...
Technical Issues Prompt Falcon 9 Launch Delay For TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT
Technical problems with the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage...
Spectacular Launch Delivers MMS Probes To Study Magentic Reconnection
NASA’s first-of-its kind mission to study the violent interactions...
Paper: Launch Window Assessment For The MMS Mission
Comments What do you think?
Falcon Orbits Electric Satellites On Dual-Launch Milestone
Working to build a steady launch pace and shake...
Deep Space Falcon Launch Successfully Deploys NASA’s DSCOVR Climate Observatory
The second mission of 2015 for SpaceX’s Falcon 9...
NASA Selects Winning Student Designs Of 3-D Printed Tools For Astronauts
After three months of designing and modeling, a panel...
NASA’s New Horizons Returns First Photos Of Pluto, Charon As It Nears Encounter
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft returned its first new images...
“Old Reliable” Delta II Orbits First Of A Kind Soil Moisture Mapping Spacecraft
Blazing a trail through a cloudy California morning, a...
Planetary Society Announces LightSail Spacecraft Test Flight
The Planetary Society today announced the first of its...
Photo Gallery: Atlas V-551 Launches The Navy’s MUOS-3 Satellite
Comments What do you think?
SpaceX And US Air Force Agree To Settle Lawsuit
Just days after entering judge-ordered mediation, SpaceX and the...
First Full-Scale SLS Booster Installed On Stand For March Static Test
NASA and ATK have completed installing the first Space...
NASA Completes Investigation of 2014 Sounding Rocket Failure
January 12, 2015 – An investigation team has determined...
Atlas V Successfully Launches Navy’s “Orbital Cell Tower”
Marking the 200th launch for the venerable Atlas-Centaur family...
Photo Feature: Five Rockets Are On The Pad In Alaska
January 20, 2015 – Five rockets are on the...
Five Sounding Rockets To Study Effect of Solar Wind On The Weather
January 13, 2015 – The interaction of solar winds...
RS-25 Main Engine Testing Resumes At Stennis After Five-Year Hiatus
The new year is off to a hot start...
Falcon 9 Launches Fifth Contracted SpaceX ISS Mission; Booster Recovery Test Fails
A Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space early this...
Technical Glitches, Orbital Mechanics Push Falcon 9 CRS-5 Launch Into 2015
The next launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket...
Amid Testing Trouble, Firm Launch Date Expected Today For Falcon 9 CRS-5
We should learn today whether or not SpaceX will...
X Marks the Spot: Falcon 9 To Attempt Ocean Platform Landing
(Source: SpaceX) During our next flight, SpaceX will attempt...
Powerful Atlas Launches Clandestine Satellite From California
The largest Atlas rocket to fly from California blasted...
Atlas To The Rescue, Orbital Selects ULA To Launch Cygnus To ISS In 2015
As the company continues to recover from October’s spectacular...
NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Completes “Picture Perfect” First Test Flight
Reaching a pinnacle in its nine-year development program, NASA’s...
Inferno Over Wallops! A first-hand Photo And Video Account Of Antares Launch Failure
Read the story with a full page of launch...
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Readies New Round Of Test Flights
NASA’s Morpheus experimental rocket-powered vertical takeoff and landing testbed...
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes, One Pilot Reported Killed
We have received word that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo failed...
Antares Explodes, ISS Cargo Lost In Launch Failure
Launch of the Cygnus spacecraft was supposed to be...
Atlas V Racks Up 50th Success With Launch of GPS IIF-8 For U.S. Air Force
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully...
Hurricane Gonzalo Delays NASA’s Latest Cargo Run To ISS
Already delayed several times, the launch of an Orbital...
Photo Feature: Melbourne Air & Space Show
“We are thrilled by the turnout on Saturday for...
JPL Selects CubeSat Proposals for Europa Clipper Mission Study
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has chosen...
Looking To The Future, Delta IV Rocket For Orion First Flight Reaches The Launch Pad
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket stands...
India, U.S. To Collaborate On Earth Obsevation, Mars Missions
In a meeting Tuesday in Toronto, NASA Administrator Charles...
Sierra Nevada Targets Air-Launch With Stratolaunch Partnership
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for...
ATK Test Fires Igniter For Orion Launch Abort System Motor
NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of...
Delta IV Processing Nearly Complete For Historic EFT-1 Mission
Engineers took another step forward in preparations for the...
Sierra Nevada Files Protest Challenging NASA Commercial Crew Awards To Boeing, SpaceX
(Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from...
Dragon Blasts Off With Science, Supplies On Fourth Space Station Cargo Run
Dodging persistent thunderstorms that have beseiged Florida most of...
NASA Opens Bidding For Second Round Of ISS Cargo Resupply Services
On the heels of awarding groundbreaking contracts to U.S....
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin To Develop RD-180 Alternative
Facing pressure to find a domestic replacement for the...
SpaceX Breaks Ground For Texas Spaceport, With Just A Hint Of Politics
Gov. Rick Perry today helped break ground on the...
One More Leap, Boeing And SpaceX Win NASA’s Commercial Crew Contracts
U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from...
NASA Rolls Out First Orion Spacecraft For December EFT-1 Test Flight
NASA is making steady progress on its Orion spacecraft,...
Falcon 9 Successfully Delivers AsiaSat 6 Comsat To Orbit
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thundered into orbit during...
Acoustic Tests Help NASA Model SLS Launch Dynamics
Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,...
SLS Passes Milestone And Receives NASA Approval For Development
NASA officials Wednesday announced they have completed a rigorous...
SpaceX Falcon 9R Rocket Explodes During Texas Test Flight
SpaceX experienced a rare but disappointing failure today when...
Amazing Photo Captures Cygnus’ Flaming Re-Entry
ISS Expedition 40 crewmember Alexander Gerst captured this amazing...
Dramatic Video Shows Falcon First Stage Powered Descent After Launch
When SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from...
On Its Way To A Fiery Re-Entry, Orbital’s Cygnus Departs ISS
Orbital Sciences Cygnus commercial cargo craft completed a month-long...
Atlas Rocket Orbits WorldView-3 Commercial Imaging Satellite
Continuing a very successful year for United Launch Alliance,...
ULA Names Tory Bruno President And CEO; Michael Gass Retires
United Launch Alliance named veteran aerospace industry executive Tory...
NASA Releases High-Definition Onboard Video From LDSD “Flying Saucer” Test
NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a...
NASA To Create First 3D-Printed Space Cameras
By the end of September, NASA aerospace engineer Jason...
Final European Automated Transfer Vehicle Blasts Off On Ariane 5 To Resupply ISS
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated...
Delta IV Dodges Weather To Launch GSSAT Spacecraft On Fifth Try
After nearly a week of frustrating technical and then...
Delta II Returns To Service To Launch NASA’s First Carbon Monitoring Spacecraft
Following a one-day delay to fix a balky water...
Success For NASA’s Experimental Supersonic “Flying Saucer”
NASA officials are calling today’s near-space test flight of...
2014 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study
NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase...
Projects Selected For NASA’s 2015 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge
NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected...
Orion Stacking Operations Begin For December EFT-1 Launch
With just six months until its first trip to...
Engine Failure Investigation Slips Next Cygnus ISS Resupply Mission Into July
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that it has updated its...
NASA Video Highlights Orion, SLS Development Progress
This is NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate quarterly update...
NASA Uses Laser To Beam “Hello, World!” Video From ISS
NASA successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from...
NASA’s Final Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Report Released
With two companies now providing commercial cargo launch services...
Orion Receives Heat Shield For Late 2014 EFT-1 Test Flight
Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers attach the heat shield...
Photo Feature: Meet The SpaceX Dragon V2 Spacecraft
SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon...
NASA Readies Futuristic “Flying Saucer” For Flight Over Hawaii
UPDATE: Due to weather conditions, there will be no...
SpaceX Unveils Next-Generation Manned Dragon Spacecraft
With just a bit of Hollywood-esque flash, SpaceX unveiled...
Atlas V Successfully Deploys Classified NROL-33 Satellite
While the battle between SpaceX and United Launch Alliance...
Photo Feature: The Powerful Atlas Rocket Ready To Launch NROL-33
  Comments What do you think?
Delta IV Launches Sixth Upgraded GPS Satellite
America’s newest Global Positioning System satellite is now in...
Orbital And ATK Announce Merger Continuing Industry Consolidation
Orbital Sciences Corporation today announced that it has entered...
New Spacecraft Will Become First U.S. Space Lifeboat in 40 Years
The next generation of American spacecraft designed to carry...
NASA Partnerships Launch Multi-User Spaceport
Teamed with its industry partners, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center...
NASA Outlines Future Path To Human Mars Exploration
I will join 11 senior NASA officials in a...
Dragon Begins Third ISS Resupply Mission; First Stage Recovery Test Success
  A GoPro Captures Launch Of A SpaceX Falcon...
Atlas V Successfully Deploys Classified NROL-67 Satellite
. United Launch Alliance successfully launched the second mission...
Morpheus Completes First Test Of Hazard Avoidance System
The Morpheus team successfully completed Free Flight 10 (FF10)...
NASA’s LRO Mission and North America to Experience Total Lunar Eclipse
When people in North America look up at the...
Orion Avionics System Ready For Exploration Flight Test-1
Testing of the Orion spacecraft’s avionics system has concluded...
Space Launch System Core Stage Model ‘Sounds’ Off for Testing
A 5-percent scale model of the Space Launch System...
NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology...
Air Force Weather Satellite Successfully Deployed On ULA’s 80th Launch
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully...
Soyuz Blasts Off To Orbit Europe’s Sentinel-1A Earth Oservation Satellite
Continuing their track record for delivering both commercial and...
Air Force Releases Details Of Incident That Scrubbed Atlas And Falcon Launches
In the wake of serious outage on the U.S....
Orion Integration Makes Progress Toward Late-Year EFT-1 Mission
Orion is marching ever closer to its first trip...
Atlas 5 Rocket Launches To Successfully Deploy NASA’s Newest TDRS Satellite
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket thundered into...
Dragon Passes Another Milestone With Sucessful Parachute Drop Test Over Pacific Ocean
Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration...
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Soars Over Kennedy Space Center As Tests Continue
NASA’s Morpheus lander testbed resumed testing following a break...
2013 NASA Safety Report Highlights Funding Uncertainty, Commercial Crew Progress
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee...
NASA, Commercial Crew Partners Look To Make Strides In 2014
Several companies, working closely with NASA, ended 2013 with...
Space Launch System Could Enable Transformational Missions, Scientists Say
The human spaceflight community joined the space science community...
NASA Administrator Visits Michoud, Tours SLS Facilities
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Monday visited the agency’s Michoud...
Florida Schools Send Experiments To ISS On Board Orbital’s Cygnus
When Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus cargo ship arrived at...
Cygnus Arrives At ISS With Supplies, Experiments
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station Sunday used a...
Virgin Galactic Reaches New Heights in Third Supersonic Test Flight‏
Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, which is...
SpaceX Manifest Grows With JCSAT 14 Launch Contract
Fresh off its second successful launch of a commercial...
NASA, White House Discuss ISS Life Extension At International Space Exploration Forum
Speaking at a global space exploration forum Thursday, John...
NASA Powers Up SLS Avionics For The First Time
The modern avionics system that will guide NASA’s Space...
Antares Blasts Off With Cygnus On First Contracted ISS Resupply Mission
Marking the beginning of regular supply runs to the...
Antares Set For Chilly Launch To Space Station
1/8/14 7:00 am EST UPDATE: Early this morning the...
SpaceX Rings In The New Year With Launch Of Thai Satellite
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape...
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Poised For First Launch Of New Year
Looking to start 2014 with a roar, SpaceX is...
Photo Feature: NASA Readies TDRS-L Spacecraft For Late January Launch
NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-L was the...
Boeing Announces Expansion Of X-37B Operations At Kennedy Space Center
In what could be a boon for the aerospace...
SpaceX Delays Falcon 9 Launch Of Thaicom 6, Remains Confident Of January Liftoff
Bird-watchers on the beaches of Cape Canaveral will have...
NASA’s Resurrected Infrared Telescope Captures First Images, Prepares To Hunt Asteroids
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), a...
NASA’s Next Mars Lander Gets A Launch Vehicle
NASA has selected United Launch Services LLC of Centennial,...
Dreamchaser Completes NASA Commercial Crew Milestones
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced that the company...
Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Launch Abort Engine Testing for Boeing CST-100 Spacecraft
Aerojet Rocketdyne announced today that it completed development testing...
Balky Station Cooling Pump Creates Delay, Uncertainty For Cygnus Resupply Mission
NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. Saturday moved the targeted...
SpaceX Gains Advantage Over Blue Origin In Fight For Former Shuttle Launch Pad
Government Accountability Office denies Blue Origin’s protest over fairness...
Cygnus Joins Antares For Second Space Station Supply Run
On December 10, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s operations team mated...
NASA’s Juno Photographs Spectacular Views Of Earth And Moon During Flyby
When NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on Oct....
NASA’s Morpheus Lander Returns To Flight At Kennedy Space Center
Rebuilt and better than ever, NASA’s Morpheus prototype lander...
Proton Notches Another Success With Launch Of Inmarsat-5 F1
An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton Breeze M successfully...
Atlas V Lofts Top-Secret Satellite, 12 CubeSats For NASA And Education
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a...
SpaceX Reaches Milestone With Falcon 9 Launch Of Commercial Satellite
Making its commercial debut, an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket...
Blue Origin Test-Fires New BE-3 Rocket Engine
NASA commercial crew partner Blue Origin of Kent, Wash.,...
China Successfully Launches First Lunar Lander Chang’e 3
A Long March 3B rocket blasted off from the...
SpaceX Targets Thanksgiving For Inaugural Falcon 9 GTO Mission
SpaceX is hoping for a special Thanksgiving after the...
NASA’s MAVEN Rockets To Explore Mysteries Of Mars Atmosphere
 With a thunderous roar, NASA’s Mars Atmoshere and Volatile...
Today In History, November 10, 1964 – KSC Mercury Monument Dedication
The Mercury Monument stands outside of Complex 14 was...
Dream Chaser And Role Of The Media On Public Perception Of Failure
Last week, Sierra Nevada conducted the first free-flight test...
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Suffers Setback During First Free Flight Test
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) suffered an apparent setback of...
Proton Rocket Successfully Launches FM-6 Satellite For Sirius XM Radio
International Launch Services (ILS), a leader in providing mission...
This LADEE Wasn’t Just Eating Bon Bon’s During The Government Shutdown
During the NASA shutdown, the LADEE mission continued to...
Proton Set To Launch Comsat For Sirius XM After 24-Hour Delay
The launch of a Proton launch vehicle with the...
Dramatic Video Captures Grasshopper’s Highest Jump To Date
On Monday, October 7th, Grasshopper completed its highest leap...
The View From Here: Curiosity Looks Back At Home
The HiRISE instrument would make a great backyard telescope...
SpaceX Releases New Photos And Video Of Next-Gen Falcon 9 Demo
SpaceX released stunning new photos and video from the...
MAVEN Granted Reprieve, Preparations Resume For November Launch
The cloud of pessimism over NASA because of funding...
Second-Generation Falcon Takes Flight To Test New Engines, Recoverability
Equipped with upgraded engines, computer systems and greatly improved...
Curiosity Fails To Find Methane And Adds To The Mystery Of Life On Mars
Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian...
Historic Comet Hunting Mission Ends As Deep Impact Falls Silent
After almost 9 years in space that included an...
Orbital’s Antares Blasts Off On First Cygnus Mission To ISS
Marking a giant stride forward in NASA’s plans to...
On Its 40th Mission, Atlas Deploys Third Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite
Dodging rain and high winds, an Atlas V rocket...
Moon Express’ Guidance Software Flies NASA’s Mighty Eagle On A Successful Test
The Mighty Eagle, a NASA robotic prototype lander managed...
To Boldly Go… Voyager 1 Reaches For The Stars
There was a time over a generation ago when...
NASA’s Lunar Dust Explorer Blasts Off From Virginia Spaceport
UPDATE: NASA has confirmed that the reaction wheels of...
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Conducts Second Powered Test Flight
Suborbital passenger spaceflight pioneer Virgin Galactic passed another major...
NASA Narrows List Of Potential Sites For Next Mars Lander
NASA has narrowed to four the number of potential...
STS-3 Space Shuttle Columbia Photo And Video Collection
Former NASA astronaut Gordon Fullerton passed away this week....
It’s Been 20 Years Since The First Flight Of DC-X
It’s been 20 years since the remarkable DC-X Delta...
NASA Prepares LADEE for First Virginia Coast Launch to Moon
In an attempt to answer prevailing questions about our...
Sierra Nevada Makes Second Successful Dream Chaser Captive-Carry Test Flight
NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo.,...
NASA Releases New Graphic and Video Depictions of Asteroid Mission
NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting...
NASA Astronaut Candidate Class Of 2013 Introduced To The Public
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday formally welcomed the...
NASA Wallops Launch Facility To Host A Moon Mission Celebration August 21
The upcoming moon mission at the NASA Wallops Flight...
NASA Seeks Users For Shuttle Era Launch Structures
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is seeking concepts...
NASA Selects Technology Demonstration Projects for Suborbital Research Flights
NASA has selected for possible flight demonstration 10 proposals...
NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Completes Orbit and Entry Review
NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Space Exploration Technologies...
NASA Adds Milestones To Commercial Crew Initiative, Funds SpaceX, Sierra Nevada
NASA announced Thursday it is adding some additional milestones...
NASA Launches Suborbital RockSat-X Mission With Student Payloads
A Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital rocket carrying experiments developed by...
Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Sixth Wideband Global Satcom Military Satellite
Blazing through the evening skies over Florida, a United...
Japanese Resupply Craft HTV-4 Is Captured And Berthed To ISS
The fourth Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency H-II Transfer Vehicle,...
Progress 52 Resupply Ship Docks With ISS
The ISS Progress 52 resupply ship docked with the...
ULA Completes Five Major Milestones In Just Eight Days, Including One Launch
During the last eight days, the United Launch Alliance...
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Blazing a trail through a cloudy California morning, a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket successfully deployed NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP spacecraft into polar orbit this morning on one of the venerable launch vehicle’s final missions. After delays this week due to strong high altitude winds, Delta blasted off at 6:22 a.m. PST from Space Launch Complex 2-West at Vandenberg Air Force Base to begin its 57 minute climb to orbit.

GoPro Hero 2 Captures Launch Of A Delta II Rocket With SMAP

Check out our SMAP Launch Photo Gallery!
Visit our collection of SMAP Mission Videos!

With its Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-27A first stage provided an additional boost by three ATK-manufactured solid rocket motors, the vehicle leapt off the launch pad and quickly disappeared into low clouds that hung over the launch site. The clouds completely obscured the view for the public, many of whom stopped roadside outside of the military complex to watch.

The rocket quickly raced southward, jettisoning the solid boosters a minute and a half after launch. A couple minutes later, the liquid fueled first stage drained the last of its kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants and separated from the Aerojet Rockedyne AJ10-118K hypergolic restartable second stage.

About 57 minutes after liftoff, SMAP separated from the rocket’s second stage into an initial 411- by 425-mile orbit. The spacecraft then deployed its solar array and established communications with ground controllers, confirming the spacecraft survived the trip in excellent health.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA's SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA’s SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

“The launch of SMAP completes an ambitious 11-month period for NASA that has seen the launch of five new Earth-observing space missions to help us better understand our changing planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Scientists and policymakers will use SMAP data to track water movement around our planet and make more informed decisions in critical areas like agriculture and water resources.”

“Congratulations to the NASA Launch Services Program team, JPL and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch of the SMAP satellite,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “It is our honor to launch this important Earth science mission to help scientists observe and predict natural hazards, and improve our understanding of Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles.”

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 at SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA's SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 at SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA’s SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

SMAP and its ground systems will be commissioned over the next three months  to ensure they are fully functional and are ready to begin routine science data collection. A key milestone will be the deployment of the spacecraft’s instrument boom and 20-foot diameter reflector antenna. The observatory will be maneuvered to its final 426-mile, near-polar operational orbit, and the antenna will spin up to 14.6 revolutions per minute.

“Congratulations to the NASA Launch Services Program team, JPL and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch of the SMAP satellite,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs. “It is our honor to launch this important Earth science mission to help scientists observe and predict natural hazards, and improve our understanding of Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles.”

SMAP Mission Launch – From NASA TV, January 31, 2015

SMAP is embarking on a three-year mission that will peer below Earth’s surface to expand our understanding of a key component of the Earth system that links the water, energy and carbon cycles driving our living planet. SMAP also will detect whether the ground is frozen or thawed. Detecting variations in the timing of spring thaw and changes in the length of the growing season will help scientists more accurately account for how much carbon plants are removing from Earth’s atmosphere each year, critical information as scientists and government around the world work to figure out how to cope and combat the effects of climate change.

“The next few years will be especially exciting for Earth science thanks to measurements from SMAP and our other new missions,” said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Each mission measures key variables that affect Earth’s environment. SMAP will provide new insights into the global water, energy, and carbon cycles. Combining data from all our orbiting missions will give us a much better understanding of how the Earth system works.”

SMAP Mission Background

Soil moisture controls the partitioning of available energy into sensible and latent heat fluxes across regions where the evaporation regime is, at least intermittently, water-limited (as opposed to energy-limited). Since the fluxes of sensible and latent heat and moisture at the base of the atmosphere influence the evolution of weather, soil moisture is often a significant factor in the performance of atmospheric models, both in weather and in climate applications.

“SMAP will improve the daily lives of people around the world,” said Simon Yueh, SMAP project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “Soil moisture data from SMAP has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy of short-term weather forecasts and reduce the uncertainty of long-term projections of how climate change will impact Earth’s water cycle.”

The goal of the SMAP mission is to establish a satellite observatory in a near-polar, sun-synchronous Earth orbit to collect a 3-year dataset that will be used to determine the moisture content of the upper soil and its frozen or thawed state, with global measurements every 3 days. This is accomplished using an instrument that combines an L-band radar and an L-band radiometer, which share a rotating 6-m-aperture reflector antenna that scans a wide 1000-km swath as the observatory orbits the Earth.

The radiometer provides “passive” measurements of the microwave emission from the upper soil with a spatial resolution of about 40 km, and is more sensitive to near-surface soil moisture and less sensitive to the effects of surface roughness and vegetation than the radar.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA's SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA’s SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

The radar makes “active” backscatter measurements of the surface, and the ground processing system performs the synthetic aperture radar processing to achieve a spatial resolution of 3 km across about 70% of the swath in its high-resolution mode. Utilizing a combination of the active and passive datasets provides greater accuracy and spatial resolution in measuring moisture in the upper 5 cm of soil than is possible with either of the individual instruments alone.

SMAP observations of soil moisture and freeze/thaw state from space will allow significantly improved estimates of water, energy, and carbon transfers between the land and atmosphere. Soil moisture measurements are directly applicable to flood assessment and drought monitoring. SMAP observations can help mitigate these natural hazards, resulting in potentially great economic and social benefits. SMAP observations of soil moisture and freeze/thaw timing will also reduce a major uncertainty in quantifying the global carbon balance by helping to resolve an apparent missing carbon sink on land at boreal latitudes.

Science Objectives

The science objectives of the SMAP project are captured by five specific goals:

  • Understand processes that link the terrestrial water, energy, and carbon cycles,
  • Estimate global water and energy fluxes at the land surface,
  • Quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes,
  • Enhance weather and climate forecast skill, and
  • Develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capability.

SMAP measurements address a wide variety of diverse applications, including:

  • Weather forecasting through initialization of numerical weather prediction models
  • Seasonal climate forecasting through use of soil moisture as model initial and boundary conditions
  • Agricultural and hydrological drought monitoring through mapping of soil moisture deficits
  • Flood and flash flood forecasting and hazards mitigation through soil moisture-based flood guidance
  • Agricultural productivity and early famine warning through assessment of crop water stress
  • Human health through monitoring and prediction of heat stress and conditions for waterborne diseases
  • National security through assessment of terrain trafficability and density altitude for air transport

SMAP Mission Post-Launch News Conference

During its science operations, SMAP will return an average volume of 135 GB per day of science data to be delivered to the science data processing facility. SMAP does not have an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and the associated ephemeris knowledge because the large instrument reflector in the zenith direction obscures GPS visibility.

SMAP will observe the Earth from a sun-synchronous, near-circular science orbit with an equator-crossing altitude near 426 miles and an ascending node at 6 PM local mean solar time. At this altitude, a sun-synchronous orbit has an inclination of about 98.12º and an orbit period of 98.46 minutes. The science orbit altitude has been selected to allow near-global coverage of the Earth to be obtained in 3 days (44 orbits) with an instrument swath of about 1000 km and a ground track that repeats exactly in 8 days (117 orbits). This repeat pattern provides even coverage of the planet with an ideal longitude spacing between ground tracks at the equator of 3.077 degrees.

The terminator orbit was selected to allow soil moisture measurements near the morning terminator, where ionospheric effects and land–atmosphere thermal gradients are minimized. This design also minimizes thermal variations on the instrument and simplifies the spacecraft design. The 6 PM ascending node was selected so that the annual eclipse season (about 12 weeks per year from mid May to early August) occurs near the southern part of the orbit, and this minimizes thermal effects on freeze/thaw measurements in the northern hemisphere. The maximum eclipse duration is about 18.6 minutes.

The altitude for the science orbit repeat pattern of 117 orbits in 8 days is selected slightly above the altitude for an exact 3-day repeat pattern so that the ground track walks to the west and fills in the gap between consecutive orbits.

At the end of its useful life, the observatory will be maneuvered to a lower disposal orbit and decommissioned to a functional state that prevents interference with other missions.The observatory is maneuvered to the lower disposal orbit to reduce its orbital lifetime and passivated (energy sources depleted to the extent allowed by the design) to reduce the risk of explosion or fragmentation if struck by orbital debris. The disposal orbit has been designed to ensure that the observatory re-enters the atmosphere within 15.5 years.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA's SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 blasts off from SLC-2W at Vandenberg AFB carrying NASA’s SMAP spceacraft. Photo Credit: Matthew Travis / Zero-G News

SMAP Instruments

SMAP’s radar uses a microwave frequency of 1215 to 1300 megahertz (MHz) in a part of the electromagnetic spectrum known as the L-band. The radar transmits almost 3,000 pulses of microwaves a second and receives the signals that bounce back from Earth, called backscatter. Microwaves at this frequency are able to penetrate a few inches or more into the soil before they rebound.

Water – including water in soil – responds differently than dry soil does to microwaves. Water changes the strength of backscatter and microwaves’ polarization (the orientation of the electrical field of the microwaves). Therefore, backscatter from moister soil is stronger and is polarized differently than backscatter from dryer soil. The extent of the difference allows scientists to distinguish the amount of soil moisture. SMAP’s radar emits pulses with two different polarizations, horizontal and vertical, to make a more complete measurement of this effect.

The radar achieves the mission’s high resolution requirements by a technique called synthetic aperture radar (SAR) processing. SAR “synthesizes” a virtual antenna many kilometers long through complex signal processing of Doppler shifts in the backscatter. The Doppler shifts occur because returning microwaves from a target in front of the spacecraft appear to be compressed by the spacecraft’s movement toward them, whereas returns from a target receding behind SMAP appear to be spread out.

SAR processing is commonly used in scientific research and space missions to produce topographic-like maps of terrain; however SMAP’s SAR lacks the capability to produce these types of images. Instead, it produces “maps” of backscatter at high spatial resolution. SMAP is the first mission to use a SAR in connection with a rotating mesh antenna.

Besides providing soil moisture measurements, the radar data will also provide information on whether the soil is frozen or thawed – another key science objective. When water in soil freezes, radar backscatter is greatly reduced, making the change of state readily observable from space.

Like the radar, SMAP’s radiometer detects differences in microwaves that are caused by water in soil; but the radiometer measures Earth’s natural microwave emissions at the frequency of 1.4 gigahertz, in the L-band. Around the globe, the most striking difference in these natural emissions is between water and land surfaces. A desert emits microwaves at about three times the rate that a lake does. Because the difference is so large, even a small amount of moisture in soil causes a change that a radiometer can measure accurately.

The Antenna

To enable the mission to meet its accuracy and resolution needs while covering the globe every three days or less, SMAP’s rotating antenna is about 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter. SMAP’s Reflector Boom Assembly (RBA) is an advanced, low-mass, deployable reflector system – the first spinning and precision mass balanced mesh reflector with an ultracompact stowage volume and a precision surface. It is the first use of such a system in a spaceborne instrument that jointly supports radar and radiometric measurements for Earth science. It is also the first use of a deployable mesh antenna in a rotating spaceborne instrument, rotating at 14.6 revolutions per minute, or one rotation in fewer than four seconds. The RBA enables SMAP to meet its measurement requirements for high accuracy and spatial resolution and to achieve global coverage every two or three days while still using only a single small observatory that weighs just over a U.S. ton (1,000 kilograms).

The designers chose a flexible mesh antenna because it must fold into a very compact stowed volume of 1 foot by 4 feet (30 by 120 centimeters) for launch.

The SMAP Applications Program

The SMAP Applications Program was created in 2007 to locate and engage groups that were likely to find innovative ways to use the mission’s data for societal benefit. The program now has more than 300 partners. Its extensive pre-launch activities over the years have set a new standard for engaging users during the development of a NASA mission.

The SMAP Applications Working Group, with a wide and inclusive membership, develops plans for SMAP applications and identifies future potential users of SMAP data. One important set of data users is the SMAP Early Adopters: individuals and organizations that are already aware of a clearly defined need for the kind of data SMAP will provide. Early Adopters use their own resources (funding, personnel, facilities, etc.) to conduct research with simulated SMAP data provided by the mission. The research is aimed at preparing them to integrate the real data into their own programs quickly, once it is available, and also at helping SMAP mission staff assure that the mission’s data products meet user needs. Early Adopters work closely with SMAP team members, interacting in workshops, tutorials and other events.

In addition, the Delta II delivered four educational cubesats as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) initiative.

ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission for NASA, scheduled for March 12 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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