Sonntag, 27. August 2017 - 23:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Grüner Feuerball mit Schweif über Virginia/USA gesichtet




Grüner Feuerball mit Schweif! Saust hier ein Ufo über den Nachthimmel? 

Die USA wurden von einem mysteriösen Schauspiel heimgesucht. Am Himmel über Washington DC im US-Bundesstaat Virginia war ein leuchtend grüner Feuerball zu sehen. Handelt es sich um eine Alien-Botschaft?


Kuriose Naturspektakel gibt es in Hülle und Fülle - mal erleuchten Sternschnuppen den Himmel, ein andermal versetzt eine Sonnenfinsternis die Menschen in helle Aufregung. Doch jetzt war es eine Erscheinung der mysteriösen Sorte, die die Bewohner im US-Bundesstaat Virginia ausflippen ließen. Am Nachthimmel von Washington DC war nämlich ein leuchtend grüner Feuerball mit einem hellen Schweif zu beobachten, der für Aufregung sorgte.

Grüner Feuerball am Himmel! Naturspektakel versetzt USA in Aufruhr

Gesichtet wurde das Objekt einem Bericht des britischen "Mirror" zufolge nicht nur in Virginia, sondern auch in New York. In Windeseile verbreitete sich die Kunde der Sichtung auf dem Kurznachrichtendienst Twitter. Nach der totalen Sonnenfinsternis, die in den USA erst vor wenigen Tagen zu beobachten war, scheinen die US-Amerikaner für sonderbare Schauspiele am Himmel besonders sensibilisiert zu sein. Einige Beobachter spekulieren, dass es sich um einen Meteor gehandelt haben könnte, andere mutmaßen, Nordkorea sei mit seinen Waffentests für das Himmelsspektakel verantwortlich.



War die Sichtung ein Meteor?

Auch den offiziellen Behörden ist die vermeintliche Meteor-Sichtung in den USA nicht entgangen: Im UTSC Observatorium im kanadischen Toronto wurde das Schauspiel ebenfalls beobachtet. In einem Video der Sichtung, den die Sternwarte auf Twitter teilte, ist ein kurzer Lichtblitz erkennbar. Allerdings sei den Experten zufolge ungewiss, ob es sich wirklich um einen Meteor handelte.


Tags: Astronomie - Grüner Feuerball mit Schweif über Virginia/USA gesichtet 


Sonntag, 27. August 2017 - 18:05 Uhr

Mars-Chroniken - Curiosity Rover findet neue Beweise für alte hydrothermische Aktivität


Hotsprings in Gale Crater? Curiosity Rover Finds New Evidence for Ancient Hydrothermal Activity

Mineral veins below a cap rock ridge on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in Gale crater. Curiosity found the highest levels of germanium in these veins, evidence for previous hydrothermal activity. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found even more evidence for a previously habitable environment in Gale crater on Mars, according to a new studyjust published. The findings point to a history of hydrothermal activity in the region, which combined with other evidence for a past lake in the crater, makes an even more compelling case for possible ancient life.


The study has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. According to Jeff Berger, lead author and a geologist at the University of Guelph, Ontario, the rover found concentrations of zinc and germanium 10 to 100 times greater in sedimentary rocks in the crater as compared to typical Martian crust.

On Earth, these elements tend to be enriched together in hydrothermal environments with hot water and sulfur, and these environments are teeming with a wide array of microbial life. Hydrothermal deposits are also ideal for preserving fossilized remains of such life.

Mudstone lakebed sedimentary deposits seen by the Curiosity rover in Gale crater. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Halos” – paler zones bordering bedrock fractures as seen by Curiosity. The halos are rich in silica, evidence for the longer duration of wet environmental conditions a long time ago. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finely layered and eroded sedimentary rocks seen recently by Curiosity. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“You have heat and chemical gradients… conditions favorable for the genesis and persistence life,” Berger said.

The researchers used data from Curiosity’s APXS instruments to measure 16 major, minor and trace elements in the rocks at Gale Crater, including zinc. They also used the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument to analyze samples from the drill and scoop. It wasn’t expected that germanium would be found, since the estimated abundance of it would be below the detection limit if the APXS. But they did find it, at concentrations up to 100 times more than in a typical Martian meteorite. In one mineral vein examined, it was almost 300 times more. Usually, there is a standard germanium-silicon ratio in Martian rocks, but this was not the case in the rocks studied from Gale crater.

Image of “cauliflower” silica formations found by the Spirit rover in 2008 near Home Plate in Gusev crater. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Evidence for past hydrothermal activity, such as hot springs, had also been previously discovered by the Spirit rover in Gusev crater. Spirit even found unusual nodal formations composed of silica resembling “cauliflower,” similar to ones seen in hydrothermal environments on Earth. Later studies have even suggested that they are reminiscent of ones on Earth known to have been created by microbes. Not enough is known yet about these formations to determine if life was actually involved, and Spirit unfortunately died in 2010 after becoming stuck in sand near some of these silica deposits.

According to Curiosity mission project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, the additional evidence for hydrothermal environments in Mars’ past implies the existence of a “whole variety of conditions that might all fall under the umbrella of being habitable.”

Quelle: AS

Tags: Mars-Chroniken - Curiosity Rover findet neue Beweise für alte hydrothermische Aktivität 


Sonntag, 27. August 2017 - 18:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Has spacesuit, will travel: former SpaceX employee is among Nasas new recruits


Robb Kulin is about to begin two years of intensive astronaut training. At the end, if he’s lucky, he’ll go to space


Robb Kulin, one of Nasa’s new astronaut candidates. Photograph: Nasa

When Nasa was looking for its first astronauts in 1959, it turned to the US military. Alan Shepard, the first American in space, was a navy aviator and test pilot. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, was a marine. Other members of the original “Mercury Seven” were drawn from the air force.

Fifty-eight years later, the US space agency is looking further afield, including among its latest crop of 12 astronaut candidates a marine biologist, a doctor, a university professor and an engineer, as well as a number with a military background. Unlike the Mercury Seven, five of the class of 2017 are women. 

The group, whittled down from a pool of 18,300 applicants, will be trained over the course of two years to help build and fly the newest Nasa vehicle, the Orion, which is designed for deep space exploration, with the potential to one day visit as asteroid or even Mars.

Nasa is also seeking to partner with private industry on transporting astronauts to the international space station. Since the retirement of the US space shuttle program in 2011, only Russian Soyuz capsules can carry astronauts to the space station, although the Dragon spacecraft operated by Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX carries cargo there.

Robb Kulin, one of the new astronaut candidates, hopes to help Nasa out in building such links with private space companies. Kulin formerly worked at SpaceX – which designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft – as a senior manager for flight reliability. He told the Guardian he believed that experience would let him “bring some perspective from the commercial side”.

Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Kulin started out his career as an ice driller in Antarctica on the West Antarctic ice sheet and Taylor glaciers, drilling ice core samples in order to examine ancient air in a project funded by the National Science Foundation. He said he hoped his time working in remote areas would also be valuable to Nasa. 


 Nasa’s potential future astronauts.

“Maybe a little more unique is some of the remote experience working in Antarctica and on commercial fishing boats growing up,” he said. “Just working in remote areas in tight quarters.”

But he added: “They want to teach us all to be jacks of all trades. So I’m not sure where they will put me, work-wise, once I get initial training.” 

At SpaceX, he said, his job was to coordinate teams before launch and ensure safe and reliable flights. Last September, after an unmanned rocket exploded on the launchpad, Kulin and his team led the company’s internal anomaly investigation“to figure out what went wrong and that it wouldn’t happen again and we could get back to safe, reliable flight”. A report found that the explosion was caused by the failure of one of three helium tanks. 


Kulin said he was not nervous about the prospect of going into space. “I think the only thing I’m nervous about is making sure my performance is adequate,” he said. “I’m not particularly nervous about going to space or riding the vehicles ... I have seen two rockets fail, and seen investigations, but I think we can fix that, in the industry, and make sure those things don’t happen. Each time they happen it reduces the chance of another failure.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Denver and a master’s in materials science from the University of California, San Diego, he was studying for his doctorate when he started thinking about becoming an astronaut.

“I’ve always had a love for exploration,” he said. “When I was younger, it didn’t cross my mind, to be honest. I was never one of those people who thought about it as a kid. But then I started to realize that space is really the next frontier.”

He was at the launch control center at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, when he received the call from Nasa saying he had been selected. “It was a pretty awesome moment,” Kulin said. 

Kulin left SpaceX and reported for duty at Johnson Space Center near Houston – mission control for the Apollo moon program, and more recently space shuttle flights – in early August. If all goes well, he will train there for two years. The first Orion flight could come as early as 2019.

Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 would keep most of Nasa’s funds intact, at about $19bn. But his jokes about getting to Mars before the end of his presidency, and a rambling statement in front of a startled-looking Buzz Aldrin and other astronauts announcing the re-establishment of the National Space Council, suggest he has a somewhat vague grasp of the issue.

“It is America’s destiny to be at the forefront of humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown,” Trump said, adding: “And I could say the great and very beautiful unknown. Nothing more beautiful.”

Kulin and his fellow astronauts may one day see that for themselves. 

Quelle: theguardian

Tags: Raumfahrt - Has spacesuit, will travel: former SpaceX employee is among Nasa's new recruits 


Sonntag, 27. August 2017 - 17:45 Uhr






ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer joined 16 Chinese astronauts earlier this month for nine days of sea survival training off China’s coastal city of Yantai. The ultimate goal is for ESA to establish a long term cooperation with China and ESA astronauts to fly on China’s space station.

Sea survival training

Returning from space, astronauts need to be prepared for any eventuality – including landing in water. Sea survival is a staple of all training but this is the first time that other astronauts had joined their Chinese counterparts.

Working in groups of three, the astronauts donned pressure suits and entered a mock Shenzhou capsule that was then released into the sea. The astronauts had to swap their flightsuits for insulation and buoyancy suits before jumping into inflatable boats. They then practised rescue procedures with both a ship and a helicopter.

Samantha in Chinese flightsuit

Samantha says: “The training was superbly planned and conducted. It was a great opportunity to refresh my skills and a first time practising capsule egress in the ocean with decent waves.

“Most importantly, we were welcomed as colleagues and friends by the ‘taikonauts’ and the instructors. Language and cultural differences are obviously a challenge, but also adds value, as we are all focused on the common goal of space exploration."

Matthias with capsule

Matthias agrees: “The reception was warm. We truly felt the spirit of belonging to one universal astronaut family, sharing the same values, goals and vision.

“Language was, as expected, the single most challenging obstacle, which we overcame with great enthusiasm and team spirit, speaking a mixture of Chinese and English.”

Team work


Accompanying Samantha and Matthias were an ESA flight surgeon and training specialist to gain insights into the different cultural nuances and approaches.

ESA’s head of astronaut training, Rudiger Seine, adds, “I see this as another milestone towards establishing good cooperation with China as a space partner.”

While this is the first time ESA astronauts have trained in China, it is not the first collaboration. Last year, Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu joined ESA’s caving course in Sardinia to experience an extreme environment as part of a multicultural crew. 


Both activities stem from the 2015 agreement to boost collaboration between ESA and the China Manned Space Agency, with the goal of flying European astronauts on the Chinese space station from 2022.

In the meantime, other training opportunities and joint activities are in the pipeline to get to know each other better.

The course was organised by the Astronaut Center of China in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport’s Beihai Rescue Bureau.

Matthias concludes: “I am very much looking forward to expanding our cooperation with our Chinese friends into space.”

Quelle: ESA
Update: 27.08.2017


Deutscher Astronaut will zum„Himmelspalast“ fliegen

ESA-Astronaut Matthias Maurer bei der Übung im chinesischen Meer gemeinsam mit seinen KollegenFoto: TwitterExplornaut
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ESA-Astronaut Matthias Maurer bei der Übung im chinesischen Meer gemeinsam mit seinen KollegenFoto: TwitterExplornaut

Peking/Berlin – Als erster Deutscher durfte der ESA-Astronaut Matthias Maurer (47) jetzt an einem Überlebenstraining der chinesischen Raumfahrtbehörde CMSA mitmachen. Maurers ambitioniertes Ziel: Mit zwei chinesischen Kollegen zur neuen Raumstation „Himmelspalast“ ins Weltall zu fliegen.

ESA-Astronaut Matthias MaurerFoto: TwitterExplornaut
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Foto: TwitterExplornaut

Das wäre eine Premiere! 

Matthias Maurer exklusiv zu BILD: „ Ich halte eine Zusammenarbeit mit China für sehr wichtig. Das Land wird neben den USA und Russland eine der großen Weltraumnationen der Zukunft sein."


Matthias Maurer hielt sich gemeinsam mit der italienischen ESA-Kollegin Samantha Christoforetti für zwei Wochen in der Sieben-Millionenstadt Yantai an der Ostküste Chinas auf.

Maurer, der derzeit auch die chinesische Sprache lernt, zu BILD: „Dort unterhalten die Chinesen ein spezielles Astronautenzentrum, in dem ein Überlebenstraining auf hoher See geübt wird.“

Quelle: Bild




Samstag, 26. August 2017 - 19:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Nach jahrelanger Verzögerung bereitet sich Virgin Galactic auf Raumflüge von NM vor


After years of delays, Virgin Galactic prepares for spaceflights from NM


Pete Nickolenko remembers meeting with two men who would pilot SpaceShipTwo about an hour before a test flight on Oct. 31, 2014. He wished them well.

The flight from a spaceport in Mojave, Calif. of the vehicle Virgin Galactic is building to fly paying passengers into space didn’t go well. Co-pilot Michael Alsbury unlocked a feathering system too early. The spacecraft wasn’t built to account for such an error.

The first SpaceShipTwo broke apart mid-flight, killing Alsbury. Pilot Peter Siebold was seriously injured but survived.

The accident was a massive blow to Virgin Galactic’s efforts to make space more accessible – and to New Mexico’s hopes of diversifying its economy by building a commercial space industry with Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights at its core. It set back plans to relocate Virgin Galactic employees from California to southern New Mexico and begin long-awaited flights from Spaceport America, located east of Truth or Consequences.

Dealing with disaster wasn’t new for Nickolenko, Virgin Galactic’s director of spaceline engineering. He worked for NASA’s space shuttle program in Florida for 24 years. He was in the control room when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas in 2003, killing all seven crew members.

So after the SpaceShipTwo accident, Nickolenko helped bring people together to “focus on the task at hand,” he said in a recent interview. Virgin Galactic brought on Nickolenko months before the accident, and based his job in Las Cruces because at the time the company thought it was on the verge of moving the bulk of its spaceline operation here. But on the day of the accident he was in Mojave for the test flight.

The company stopped providing public estimates of when it will begin taking passengers into space for years while it worked to fix the design flaw and complete SpaceShipTwo. With lives at stake, its reputation on the line, and facing criticism of its business model and plans, the company is focused on getting it right, Nickolenko said.

“We intend this to be a spaceline for Earth – so, just as the airlines now, we want to be very safe, need to be repeatable and also very consistent,” he said. “And we need to deliver the best experience for our customers.”

Nickolenko is one of 21 full-time employees the company already has in Las Cruces, according to Jonathan Firth, the company’s executive vice president for spaceport and program development. They work out of an office off Roadrunner Parkway marked on the outside only by a small sign that illustrates the evolution of flight. The thin, vertical strip of metal points upward from bird to small plane to fighter jet to commercial airliner to NASA’s Lunar Earth Module – and then finally to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. The door to the office remains locked even during business hours.

Inside, Virgin Galactic’s office is techy and bright, with furniture in shades of gray and white. Visitors have to sign in on an iPad. A model of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo – the cargo aircraft designed to carry the spaceship to a release altitude closer to space – sits on a table in the entryway.

The office is the most tangible sign in Las Cruces of the vision voters embraced a decade ago when they helped fund Spaceport America’s construction with a tax increase – a vision that has yet to become reality.

Virgin Galactic’s founder, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, recently said the company is aiming to get paying customers into space in 2018 – the first publicly-shared estimate in years. That would come long after Branson’s original estimate of 2009. Another reason for the delay was an explosion at the Mojave test site a decade ago that killed three workers.

Branson’s original prediction was critical to winning about $220 million in state and local public funding to help build the spaceport, including a tax increase in Doña Ana and Sierra counties. So was then-Gov. Bill Richardson’s promise of the development of a commercial space industry that would create 5,000 new jobs. Virgin Galactic has always been called the spaceport’s anchor tenant, so its operation is critical to Spaceport America’s success.

Virgin Galactic has completed several successful tests this year in Mojave, most recently on Aug. 4. Once testing there is complete, the company will move 85-90 employees to southern New Mexico, Firth said – people who were hired in Mojave with the understanding that their jobs would eventually relocate. Virgin Galactic will need to conduct additional test flights in New Mexico to ensure its spacecraft performs as expected in the different environment.

Then, officials say, passenger flights will begin.

“Virgin is doing some exciting things and helping to lead the commercial space industry, and we’re very fortunate to have them as our foundational partner in southern New Mexico,” said Dan Hicks, Spaceport America’s CEO.

Virgin Galactic’s delays have fueled doubt in a poor state that took a risk by investing surplus cash in the spaceport during an oil and gas boom. Among the skeptics is Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, who thinks Virgin Galactic’s plan is nonsense. In 2015 he unsuccessfully sponsored legislation to sell Spaceport America, which is owned by the state.

“If you’re a billionaire and you’re going to do space travel, where are you going to do it? You’re going to go to Dubai or England and stay in five-star hotels,” Muñoz said. “That doesn’t happen in T or C.”

Space tourism flights aren’t yet happening anywhere. Firth said “in excess of 600 customers” from more than 50 countries have signed up to fly from Spaceport America. Initially, a ticket cost $200,000, but Virgin Galactic raised the price to $250,000 in 2013.

Still, Virgin Galactic officials say they’re sympathetic to public frustration. “We’d love for it to be sooner as well,” Nickolenko said. “But you’ve got to make sure it’s done right and we’ve got to make sure it’s safe as well. We will not cut corners.”



Virgin Galactic has global ambitions for its space-related companies that include operations elsewhere. But it’s primarily focused at the moment on getting things right in Mojave and then building a tourist experience in southern New Mexico centered on flights into space.

Firth says the facts demonstrate the company’s commitment to New Mexico.

To date Virgin Galactic has paid $7.1 million in rent and user fees to the state for its use of a hangar and other facilities at Spaceport America. Since 2010, Firth said, the company has spent another $9.4 million with New Mexico business on construction and other things.

The company has “forward commitments” with Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces and billionaire Ted Turner’s Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C for its customers, Firth said. Virgin Galactic has brought some people who have paid for seats on SpaceShipTwo to southern New Mexico “to familiarize them with the environment,” he said. And several years ago the company brought about 90 travel agents from around the world to the region to learn about area attractions astronauts and their families could enjoy.

The travel agents spent an afternoon in Kingston, a historic silver mining town located in the Black Range mountains west of T or C. Catherine Wanek, who owns Kingston’s Black Range Lodge, said the group watched a historic recreation of the town’s “wild west” history – a mock robbery of the historic Percha Bank and a gunfight on Main Street. The lodge catered lunch for the group.

The travel agent at that event who had sold the most Virgin Galactic tickets was from Japan, Wanek said.

State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, co-chaired a political action committee a decade ago that helped convince voters to fund the spaceport. He said he remains optimistic.

“I think when Virgin starts launching a lot of these problems solve themselves because you’re going to see more employees here and you’re going to see more people visiting, so it becomes a visible reality,” he said.

Kim Sandoval

Josh Bachman / Las Cruces Sun-News

Kim Sandoval, Virgin Galactic’s “people coordinator,” will be in charge of moving dozens of company employees to Las Cruces when testing on SpaceShipTwo is complete in California. She says it’s “so much fun to talk to them about this place.”

‘Embedding in the community’

But first, SpaceShipTwo must be ready for flights. Kim Sandoval will be in charge of relocating the Mojave employees when it’s time. She’s Virgin Galactic’s “people coordinator” – basically a human resources director.

Sandoval lives in Las Cruces with her family. She has shown some of the company’s planned southern New Mexico residents around when they’re in town and said it’s “so much fun to talk to them about this place.”

Sandoval speaks with a smile about her job. She is excited that her daughters will be able to witness spaceflights, she said.

“I think it’s a pretty amazing thing that I can be part of the team that’s going to make that happen,” Sandoval said.

She grew up in Michigan and came to the Southwest to attend the University of Texas-El Paso. She moved to Las Cruces from Santa Teresa in 2009 with her husband and started a family.

Sandoval began working for Virgin Galactic as an administrative assistant last year and was promoted in January. She called Virgin Galactic a flexible employer that promotes a positive “work-life balance.” That has made it easier for her to work while also raising Annabelle, 5, and Emily, 4, she said.

“I feel like my family is part of this adventure with Virgin Galactic,” Sandoval said. “…We’re opening space for them.”

Nickolenko, like Sandoval, said he’s “embedding in the community.” His family owns a home in Las Cruces. His daughter is completing a master’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. His son is studying engineering at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

“We love the people. We love the environment. We love so much about what Las Cruces and New Mexico have to offer, and so we’ve been very thankful for the move,” he said.

Jonathan Firth

Josh Bachman / Las Cruces Sun-News

Virgin Galactic’s plans aren’t the whims of a rich billionaire, company officials say. The development of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo has cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” says Jonathan Firth, the company’s executive vice president for spaceport and program development.

A new, global space race

The global space economy was estimated at $330 billion in 2014. The partnership between Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America puts New Mexicans in the middle of a new space race with intense competition.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX, based in California, currently has two spacecraft that deliver payloads into orbit. The company has flown 10 resupply missions to the International Space Station. It launches from spaceports in Florida, California and Texas. founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which is based in Washington State, is developing a rocket-powered spacecraft. It’s building the engine in Alabama and testing at a private facility east of El Paso, Texas. Blue Origin has leased a facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida for launches, which are estimated to begin in 2020.

Virgin Galactic began with a focus on sending paying customers into suborbital space, which means they reach space but then fall back to Earth rather than completing at least one orbit around the planet. Given the SpaceShipTwo delays and the rapidly changing industry, Virgin has created another company, Virgin Orbit, to focus on launching satellites into space. That operation is headquartered in California.

Virgin Galactic remains focused on its Spaceport America plans for now, though it has its eyes elsewhere too. SpaceShipTwo could eventually fly passengers to various points around the globe more quickly than commercial airliners can. The company has said it will launch eventually from spaceports in Sweden and maybe Scotland. A firm based in the United Arab Emirates has invested big in Virgin Galactic in exchange for “exclusive regional rights” to launch from Abu Dhabi.

New Mexico has advantages. Its commercial spaceport is the first facility designed and built for that purpose anywhere. Its elevation makes reaching space cheaper than from coastal facilities. The spaceport benefits from White Sands Missile Range’s no-fly zone, which means rerouting commercial airline traffic during space flights isn’t necessary like it is other places.

And the growing cross-border industrial area between Santa Teresa, N.M. and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico provides cargo potential. Suborbital spaceflights to other points on the planet would be much quicker than commercial airliners can fly. The ability nearby to put cargo on a quick flight to other continents has potential.

Carrying research experiments into space is another possibility, Firth said. Virgin Galactic, in that case, would be competing with other companies that are already using rockets to launch experiments from Spaceport America and elsewhere.

Virgin Galactic’s plans aren’t the whims of a rich billionaire, company officials say. The development of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo, Firth said, has cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” – more, he said, than New Mexico’s $220 million investment in Spaceport America.

“There are hundreds of people working in Mojave to make it happen, and Virgin is putting hundreds of millions of dollars’ investment into making it happen, and you better think they think it’s worthwhile,” Firth said.

And the benefit to New Mexicans? The goal, Firth said, is to “create a central gravity of activity” in southern New Mexico. That’s why partnerships with hotels and others are important to creating the tourist experience high-dollar travelers expect. It’s why the growing border industrial economy is critical. It’s why local space-related educational programs, funded in part by tax dollars and with some support from Virgin Galactic, are essential for building a workforce – and providing greater opportunities for New Mexicans to stay in the state after college.

That vision, if realized, would mean more good-paying jobs in a high-tech sector and additional tourism.

“That’s exactly what we had in mind when the proposal was first made,” McCamley said. “When we start moving in that direction, that’s when this will start being a real success, but it’s getting there.”

Spaceship Unity

Virgin Galactic photo

Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital rocket-powered manned spaceplane, shown here during a test flight in California on May 1.

On a mission

Virgin Galactic doesn’t know how many people beyond the hundreds who have already reserved seats will pay to fly into suborbital space, which helps explain why the company is branching out. “We’ve got no set view of the future,” Firth said. “We’ve got an open mind.”

Nickolenko speaks about Virgin Galactic’s work as more than a business. It’s a mission, he said. Virgin Galactic plans to start flights from Spaceport America with one ship, but he envisions the company needing a fleet of several. He said he expects the company’s presence in southern New Mexico to grow substantially.

That optimism is fitting for Nickolenko, who lived in Florida as a child and got to witness the last of the Apollo launches to the moon in 1972. He wanted to become an astronaut, but poor vision prevented it. So he became a space engineer.

Nickolenko’s job with Virgin Galactic came at the right time. While NASA has struggled to figure out how to return to space, private companies are moving ahead more quickly.

“I wanted to be closer to a really special mission about launching humans back into space,” Nickolenko said. “…I wanted to be part of something that was special, exciting and more immediate.”

Sandoval spoke with a smile about increasing human access to space.

“We’re trying to focus on the good, not just for Las Cruces, but for the world and the global economy,” Sandoval said.

Quelle: NM Politics


Tags: Raumfahrt - Nach jahrelanger Verzögerung bereitet sich Virgin Galactic auf Raumflüge von NM vor 


Samstag, 26. August 2017 - 18:40 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Start von Minotaur 4 auf Cape Canaveral



Build-up begins for first Minotaur rocket launch from Cape Canaveral


File photo of a Minotaur 4 rocket before a launch from Kodiak Island, Alaska. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

Ground crews at a long-dormant launch pad at Cape Canaveral are stacking surplus military missile motors for the Aug. 25 launch of a Minotaur 4 rocket with a satellite designed to track orbital traffic thousands of miles above Earth.

The process to construct the Minotaur 4 rocket began with the hoisting of the launcher’s first stage at pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The lower three solid-fueled stages of the Minotaur 4 come from the Air Force’s stockpile of decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles deployed in the 1980s to hurl nuclear weapons to targets around the world.

A spokesperson for Orbital ATK, which operates the Minotaur family in agreement with the U.S. Air Force, confirmed stacking of the Minotaur 4 booster recently started at Cape Canaveral.

Liftoff is set for Aug. 25 at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT on Aug. 26), the opening of a four-hour launch window.

The Minotaur 4 is typically made of four stages — the three Peacekeeper motors and an additional commercial Orion 38 solid rocket on top — to send military satellites into orbit. Minotaur 4 variants have launched payloads into orbit on three occasions from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and a shortened three-stage version has launched two times on suborbital missions.

The build-up of the next Minotaur 4 rocket at launch pad 46 should be complete by mid-August, along with the attachment of SensorSat, a microsatellite designed to locate and monitor movements of spacecraft and debris in geosynchronous orbit, a belt more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.

SensorSat will go into a unique equatorial orbit at an altitude of around 372 miles (600 kilometers). The mission’s unusual equator-hugging orbit required engineers to add an additional Orion 38 upper stage, making the Minotaur 4 set to launch later this month a five-stage booster.

The final Orion 38 motor burn will reduce the angle of the ORS-5 satellite’s orbit, redirecting the spacecraft to fly over the equator.

This illustration of SensorSat is the only one released by the Air Force. Many details about the mission remain secret. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Some details of SensorSat’s mission remain secret, but the satellite will be a gap-filler to provide geosynchronous tracking data to the military after the retirement of the Space Based Space Surveillance, or SBSS, satellite launched in 2010, which is nearing the end of its design life.

A follow-on space surveillance satellite is scheduled for launch in the early 2020s.

SensorSat is funded by the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space office, a division established in 2007 to seek less expensive ways to field satellites and launch opportunities for the military. The Air Force also calls the space surveillance mission ORS-5, and the spacecraft was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

With a mass between 175 and 250 pounds (approximately 80 to 110 kilograms), SensorSat will collect “unresolved visible imagery of resident space objects in geosynchronous orbit from a novel low Earth orbit,” according to information posted on Lincoln Laboratory’s website.

Pad 46 last hosted a space launch in 1999, when a Lockheed Martin Athena rocket took off with an experimental Taiwanese satellite. Located on the easternmost tip of Cape Canaveral, the launch pad was dormant until Space Florida, a state government agency set up to lure commercial aerospace business to the Sunshine State, took over the facility and brokered the deal to bring Orbital ATK’s Minotaur rocket to the Space Coast.

Technicians partially assembled an inert Minotaur 4 rocket at pad 46 earlier this year to rehearse stacking procedures.

Quelle: SN


Update: 19.08.2017


Air Force, mission partners prepare satellite for August launch


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory engineering team stands in front of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite in the MIT LL clean room at the Lexington, Massachusetts facility, prior to shipment for final processing and stacking atop an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV launch vehicle at Launch Complex 46, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. From left to right: Joe Warfel - Assembly Technician; Michele Weatherwax - Mechanical Engineer; Al Pillsbury - Mechanical Engineer; Marshall Solomon - Thermal Engineer, and; Eui Lee - Thermal Engineer. (Courtesy photo: MIT LL)


The engineering team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts perform a light leak test on the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite prior to shipment for launch. ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, is a single satellite constellation with a primary mission to provide space situational awareness. It will operate from a low (zero degree inclination) orbit 372 miles above the earth to aid the U.S. military's tracking of other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, commonly used by defense-related communications satellites, television broadcasting stations, and international space platforms 22,236 miles above the equator. (Photo: MIT LL)


ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, is a single satellite constellation with a primary mission to provide space situational awareness. It measures about five feet long, two and a half feet wide, and weighs about 250 pounds. It will operate from a low, zero inclination orbit approximately 372 miles above the earth to aid the U.S. military's tracking of other satellites and space debris in geosynchronous orbit, 22,236 miles above the equator, commonly used by defense-related communications satellites, television broadcasting stations, and international space platforms. (Courtesy photo: MIT LL)


The Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)-5 satellite, also known as SensorSat, undergoes thermal vacuum testing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts prior to shipment for processing and integration atop an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV launch vehicle. Scheduled for launch on Aug. 25, 2017, ORS-5 is a single satellite constellation with a primary mission to provide space situational awareness at a significantly reduced cost compared to larger, more complex satellites. (Courtesy photo: MIT LL)



The U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Operationally Responsive Space Office completed a major program milestone after overseeing the successful delivery of their ORS-5 satellite from Lexington, Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for final processing, encapsulation, stacking and integration for launch. 


The ORS-5 satellite is scheduled for launch Aug. 25 at 11:15 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


“The delivery and upcoming launch of ORS-5 marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the space situational awareness mission and U.S. Strategic Command,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for Space. “It’s an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for at least three years.” 

Upon its delivery, the ORS-5 satellite, also known as SensorSat, was processed for encapsulation in the Astrotech Space Operations Florida processing facility.

A combined government and contractor team of mission partners executed final ground activities including a Launch Base Compatibility Test to verify satellite integrity after shipment, an intersegment test to verify communication compatibility from the satellite to the on-orbit operations center and the final battery reconditioning for launch, prior to its integration with the Minotaur IV launch vehicle. 


 “This is my first launch as the ORS director, and I am thrilled to see this mission get one step closer to operational capability,” said Col. Shahnaz Punjani, director of the Operationally Responsive Space Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. “As a former launch group commander, it is also very exciting to be part of the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral.  Our partners at the 45th Space Wing, Orbital ATK, and Space Florida did a tremendous job restoring Launch Complex 46 to active service and preparing it for this launch.”  

The satellite was transported from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory facility in Lexington, Massachusetts, in a customized shipping container. The transport crew ensured the satellite was transported safely and according to the time sensitive schedule.

“The safe transport, processing and integration of ORS-5 to the Minotaur IV launch vehicle was paramount and the total government and contractor team worked tirelessly to ensure mission success,” Thompson reiterated.

Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems.  Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.

Quelle: USAF


Update: 21.08.2017


Assembly complete for Minotaur launcher at Cape Canaveral

A view of pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where crews have stacked a Minotaur 4 rocket for launch Aug. 25. Credit: Orbital ATK

Using industrial cranes at a no-frills launch pad on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral, a team of Orbital ATK and U.S. Air Force technicians have fully stacked a modified Cold War-era missile set for launch next week with a $49 million satellite built to track other objects in orbit.

The Minotaur 4 rocket, made up of five solid-fueled stages, is scheduled to fire into space from pad 46 at Cape Canaveral next Friday night, Aug. 25, at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT on Aug. 26).

The mission has a four-hour window to lift off, or else wait until another day.

The spacecraft closed up inside the Minotaur 4’s nose cone is named SensorSat. Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, the Air Force-funded mission will spend three years scanning orbital traffic lanes, detecting and tracking satellites and space debris in a belt nearly 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) over the equator.

Objects at that altitude remain over fixed geographic positions on Earth, making geostationary orbit an ideal location for military and commercial communications satellites, weather observatories, and intelligence-gathering spy craft.

SensorSat is managed by the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space division, an office established in 2007 to investigate lower-cost satellites and launchers. The Air Force calls the mission ORS-5, the latest in a line of projects aimed at testing out new satellite and launch innovations.

“The delivery and upcoming launch of ORS-5 marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the space situational awareness mission and U.S. Strategic Command,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for space. “It’s an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for at least three years.”

Next week’s nighttime blastoff will mark the first Minotaur launch from Cape Canaveral. Five Minotaur 4 rockets have launched on suborbital and orbital missions since 2010 from sites in California and Alaska.

File photo of a previous Minotaur 4 launch from Alaska. Credit: Orbital ATK/William G. Hartenstein

The three main rocket motors that will power the Minotaur 4 into space came from stockpiles left over from the Air Force’s retired nuclear-tipped Peacekeeper missiles. The rocket motors were filled with pre-packed solid fuel in the 1980s, then placed on alert in missile silos until the military decommissioned the Peacekeeper.

Two commercially-produced Orion 38 rocket motors built by Orbital ATK, the company charged with operating the Minotaur, will do the extra lifting to place SensorSat into orbit.

The Minotaur 4 usually flies with a single Orion 38 motor as a fourth stage, but SensorSat’s unusual orbit requires another boost.

The fifth stage motor will give the relatively small 249-pound (113-kilogram) SensorSat satellite a kick into an equator-hugging orbit at an altitude of approximately 372 miles (600 kilometers) at zero degrees inclination.

The Air Force paid $27.2 million for the launch, opting for a commercial-like launch service to keep costs to a minimum. Orbital ATK considered basing the launch from a Minotaur pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, but the site is too far north to reach the equatorial orbit needed on the ORS-5 mission.

Another option Orbital ATK briefly considered was setting up a temporary Minotaur launch pad at the European-run spaceport in French Guiana, just north of the equator, but Cape Canaveral eventually became the best choice once engineers devised a way to add another rocket motor on top of the Minotaur 4.

Ground crews at pad 46 topped off the Minotaur rocket Tuesday with the addition of the SensorSat satellite and the Orion 38 fifth stage motor already closed up inside the launcher’s nose shroud.

The first four stages of the Minotaur 4 will fire in quick succession in the first 15 minutes of the flight to climb into a preliminary parking orbit between around 248 miles and 372 miles (400 to 600 kilometers) above Earth. That temporary orbit will have a tilt of approximately 24.5 degrees to the equator.

The SensorSat, or ORS-5, satellites prepares for thermal vacuum testing. Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory

During the 10-minute coast until ignition of the fifth stage motor, the Minotaur will release two CubeSats for an undisclosed U.S. government agency, and a three-unit shoebox-sized CubeSat for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Seattle-based Spaceflight made arrangements for the CubeSats launching on the Minotaur 4.

The Minotaur’s last firing will last a little over a minute.

“The way to think of that fifth stage is it’s an insertion stage,” said Phil Joyce, vice president of small launch programs at Orbital ATK. “We used the standard Minotaur 4 to put us in a parking orbit … And then that fifth stage Orion 38 is there to circularize and to do the plane change down to equatorial.”

With stacking of the Minotaur 4 now complete, attention turns to testing the rocket.

“Now we’re in the process of our post-stack verification tests,” said Terry Luchi, Orbital ATK’s Minotaur program manager. “This is where we’ll go through a series of avionics tests and verify that everything is still playing as expected.”

A full mission dress rehearsal with the pad team and launch controllers is scheduled for Monday. The rest of the week leading up to launch day will be spent installing ordnance and preparing to arm the vehicle.

Luchi said the Minotaur team had to work around a busy launch manifest at Cape Canaveral. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off last Monday, Aug. 14, and a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 booster launched Friday.

“This is the first time that we’ll take Minotaur out of the Cape. We have some experience in the past on other vehicles, but bringing Minotaur to the Cape obviously presents some challenges,” Luchi said in an interview with Spaceflight Now.

Orbital ATK is preparing the Minotaur 4 for launch at pad 46, a rarely-used facility operated by Space Florida, the state government agency chartered to lure commercial aerospace business to the area. The last launch from pad 46 occurred in 1999.

The Minotaur launch team raised three inert Peacekeeper stages at pad 46 earlier this year in a pathfinder test to familiarize themselves with the ground facilities and verify their compatibility.

The Air Force-run Eastern Range is also getting acquainted with the Minotaur for the first time.

While there are no more Minotaur missions from Cape Canaveral on Orbital ATK’s manifest, Luchi said the experience gained on the ORS-5 campaign could set the stage for future Florida-based flights.

“I think we’re done with this one time (at Cape Canaveral), it’s going to be all that much easier in the future,” Luchi said.

Orbital ATK has one more Minotaur 1 launch in its backlog from Wallops Island, Virginia, in late 2018. That flight, using a smaller version of the Minotaur based on retired Minuteman missile stages, will loft a classified spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Joyce said Orbital ATK anticipates future Minotaur launch contracts from the U.S. government for small-class satellites. Because they use government-furnished rocket motors, the Minotaur 1 and 4 families are restricted from competing for commercial launch awards, a U.S. government policy that has drawn the ire of Orbital ATK, which sees privately-owned satellites in the Minotaur’s lift envelope, including many U.S. payloads, going up on Indian, Russian and European launchers.

Proponents of the policy say that selling already-built missile motors into the commercial launch market would dampen innovation and keep new companies from introducing commercial rockets.

Several companies are working on commercial small satellite launch vehicles. Some have major strides, including a full-up test flight in the case of the U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, but none have successfully placed a payload into orbit.

Quelle: SN


Update: 23.08.2017


1st ASTS provides critical support for Minotaur launch at Cape

File image of the Minotaur rocket at an earlier launch campaign at Wallops.

The 1st Air and Space Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base will be assisting with the first ever Minotaur IV launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The 1st ASTS team coordinated the transport for the first three stages of the engine to Cape Canaveral AFS where they will provide support through the day of launch.

The Minotaur IV is an expendable launch system derived from an old Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

"We have specialized equipment here, where we stack the Minotaur and make sure they are good to go," said Capt. Julian Martinez, 1st ASTS mission integrator.

"The upcoming launch at Canaveral is a Minotaur IV vehicle, which is an old peacekeeper system. There are five stages, and the DoD owns the first three. We are the only Air Force blue suit team that is able to maintain, ship and handle all of these rocket components. When we are out there we always get referred to as 'the Air Force guys', because we are the only uniformed personnel that have a direct impact on ground operations."

As the only unit in the Air Force that can stack and transport the Minotaur IV, the 1 ASTS utilizes experienced missile maintainers on a space assignment.

"As a unit we rely heavily on the missile maintainers that have prior experience in the missile fields," said Brian Tafoya, 1st ASTS flight chief.

"Even though we are now on the space launch side of the house, we are able to use the knowledge of the ICBM delivery systems to ensure we do our part in the launch process. It is a bit different than what we are used to. Instead of loading a missile into a silo we get to stack it on a launch pad. Our ICBM experience translates directly into the small space lift mission and is a pretty unique experience."

The primary responsibility of the 1st ASTS is to ensure the launch vehicle is processed and stacked for a successful mission.

"For this upcoming launch from the Cape, we shipped the first three stages out about a month before the projected launch date," said Martinez.

"After the boosters arrive in Florida, we coordinate with the 45th Space Wing to use their cranes to load the boosters onto Minotaur specific trucks called Type-II's, for convoy to the launch pad. After all three stages are stacked on the launch pad, we hand custody off to the launch service provider, Orbital ATK. Stage four and five are owned by Orbital ATK and include the payload, avionics, and instrumentation."

With a low launch tempo for the Minotaur family of vehicles, the 1st ASTS team is constantly training. This prevents future discrepancies and maintains currency.

"We don't launch a lot of these, so one of the ways we stay ready for a real operation is by practicing," said Martinez.

"We run through procedures and talk with quality assurance, keeping everything up to date. This mission will launch August 25th from Cape Canaveral AFS is a pretty monumental event for the whole squadron. The team will be traveling to watch the launch, and perform post-launch equipment recovery."

The team may be small, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in dedication and expertise.

"When we conduct an operation like this, from cradle to grave, it gives us a sense of pride," said Tafoya.

"We have maintained a mission ready posture and now have a chance to prove what we can do. It is always a challenge to stay consistent across a few year gap between missions, but we do, and when we have a Minotaur launch we are mission ready."

Quelle: SD


Update: 25.08.2017


Orbital ATK Set to Launch Minotaur IV Rocket Carrying ORS-5 Satellite for the US Air Force
ORS-5 Launch will be 26th Flight for Minotaur Family of Launch Vehicles

Dulles, Virginia 24 August 2017 – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced it is in final preparations to launch the company’s Minotaur IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Friday, August 25, at approximately 11:15 p.m. EDT. The Minotaur IV will carry the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) spacecraft, which will monitor satellites and space debris to aid the U.S. military’s space situational awareness.

Building on the Minotaur family’s 100 percent success rate, this mission will mark the 26th flight for Orbital ATK’s Minotaur product line and the sixth flight of the Minotaur IV configuration. Minotaur vehicles are based on government-furnished Peacekeeper and Minuteman rocket motors that Orbital ATK has upgraded and integrated with modern avionics and other subsystems to produce an affordable launcher based on reliable, flight-proven hardware. The Minotaur IV is capable of launching payloads up to 4,000 lbs. (or 1,800 kg.) to low-Earth orbit. Minotaur rockets have previously launched from ranges in California, Virginia and Alaska. This will be the company’s first launch of a Minotaur rocket from Launch Complex-46, managed by Space Florida.

“Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station expands the Minotaur launch vehicle’s capability to meet specific mission requirements for our customer,” said Rich Straka, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Launch Vehicles Division. “We are pleased to be able to provide continued launch support for the ORS office with our reliable Minotaur family of launch vehicles and look forward to a successful launch of the ORS-5 mission.”

The Minotaur product line is provided via the Orbital/Suborbital Program (OSP-3) contract and managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Launch Enterprise, Experimental Launch and Test Division (LE/LEX), and Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Live coverage of the Minotaur launch and details about the mission are available at

Quelle: Orbital ATK


Update: 25.08.2017




An Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket carrying the ORS-5 USAF surveillance satellite is slated for its maiden liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida at 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 25, 2017 on a retired ICBM. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Patrick AFB

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL — A gap filling space surveillance satellite that will track orbiting threats for the U.S. Air Force is set for an thrilling nighttime blastoff Friday, Aug. 25 on the maiden mission of the Minotaur IV rocket from Cape Canaveral that’s powered by a retired Cold War-era ICBM missile – once armed with nuclear warheads.

The Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket carrying the ORS-5 tracking satellite for the USAF Operationally Responsive Space Office is targeting liftoff just before midnight Friday at 11:15 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-46 (SLC-46) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“We are go for launch of Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV rocket Friday night,” Orbital ATK confirmed. 

The ORS-5 mission, which stands for Operationally Responsive Space-5, marks the first launch of a Minotaur IV rocket from Cape Canaveral and the first use of SLC-46 since 1999. 

The Minotaur IV is a five stage rocket comprised of three stages of a decommissioned Cold War-era Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that has been modified to add two additional Orbital ATK Orion 38 solid rocket motors for the upper stages.

Being a night launch and the first of its kind will surely make for a spectacular sky show.

Plus if you want to see how the world could potentially end in nuclear catastrophy, come watch the near midnight launch of the Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket that’s a retired Peacekeeper ICBM once armed with nuclear warheads aimed at the Russians but now carrying the USAF ORS-5 surveillance satellite instead. 

Its well worth your time if you can watch the Minotaur launch with your own eyeballs. It can be easily viewed from numerous local area beaches, parks, restaurants and more.

Minotaur IV rocket stands at pad 46 with the USAF ORS-5 surveillance satellite for its first launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida on August 25, 2017. Credit: Orbital ATK

Furthermore, its been in a super busy time at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Because, if all goes well Friday’s midnight launch will be the third in just 11 days – and the second in a week! 

A ULA Atlas V launched the NASA TDRS-M science relay satellite last Friday, Aug 18. And a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched the Dragon CRS-12 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, Aug. 14. 

You can watch the launch live via the Orbital ATK website here:

The live Orbital ATK broadcast will begin approximately 20 minutes before the launch window opens.

The webcast will be hosted by former CNN space reporter John Zarrella.

The launch window opens at 11:15 p.m. EDT August 25. It extends for four hours until 3:15 a.m. EDT August 26.

In the event of delay for any reason, the next launch opportunity is Saturday, Aug. 26. The launch window remains the same from 11:15 p.m. EDT August 26 to 3:15 a.m. EDT August 27. 

The weather looks somewhat iffy at this time with only a 60% chance of favorable conditions at launch time according to U.S. Air Force meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base. The primary concerns on Aug. 25 are for thick clouds and cumulus clouds.

The weather odds deteriorate to only 40% favorable for the 24 hour scrub turnaround day on Aug. 26. The primary concerns on Aug. 26 are for thick clouds, cumulus clouds and lightning.

Minotaur IV ORS-5 mission patch

ORS-5 is like a telescope wrapped in a satellite that will aim up to seek threats from LEO to GEO. 

ORS-5, also known as SensorSat, is designed to scan for other satellites and debris to aid the U.S. military’s tracking of objects in geosynchronous orbit for a minimum of three years and possibly longer if its on boards sensor and satellite systems continue functioning in a useful and productive manner.

“The delivery and upcoming launch of ORS-5 marks a significant milestone in fulfilling our commitment to the space situational awareness mission and U.S. Strategic Command,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Air Force program executive officer for Space. “It’s an important asset for the warfighter and will be employed for at least three years.”

The ORS-5 satellite has a payload mass of 140 kg. It will be launched into a low inclination equatorial orbit of 600 km x 600 km (373 mi x 373 mi) at zero degrees. 

“This will be the largest low-Earth orbit inclination plane change in history – 28.5 degrees latitude to equatorial orbit,” says Orbital ATK. 

“The Minotaur IV 4th stage will put ORS-5 into initial orbit & the payload insertion stage will make a hard left to get to equatorial orbit.”

The Cape Canaveral AFB launch site for this Minotaur IV was chosen, rather than NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia based on the final orbit required for ORS-5, Orbital ATK told Universe Today at a prelaunch media briefing.

The Minotaur IV is not powerful enough to deliver ORS-5 to the desired orbit from Wallops. 

ORS-5 was designed and built by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory facility in Lexington, Massachusetts at a cost of $49 million. 

In July 2015 the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office awarded Orbital ATK a $23.6 million contract to launch the ORS-5 SensorSat on the Minotaur IV launch vehicle. 

ORS-5/SensorSat was processed for launch and encapsulation inside the 2.3 meter diameter payload fairing at Astrotech Space Operations processing facility in Titusville, Florida.

The Minotaur IV is quite similar to Orbital ATK’s Minotaur V launch vehicle which successfully propelled NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiter to the Moon for NASA during a night launch from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in Sept. 2013. 

Launch of NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiter on Friday night Sept. 6, 2013 at 11:27 p.m. EDT on the maiden flight of the Minotaur V rocket from NASA Wallops, Virginia. Credit: Ken Kremer/

The Minotaur V also utilizes the first three stages of the decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBM missile.

Overall the ORS-5 launch will be the 26th blastoff in Orbital ATK’s Minotaur family of launch vehicles which enjoy a 100% success rate to date. 

Gantry doors open to expose Minotaur V rocket launching LADEE lunar orbiter to the Moon on Sept 6, 2013 from Launch Pad 0B at NASA Wallops Island. Credit: Ken Kremer/

The U.S. Air Force has a stockpile of about 180 surplus Peacekeeper motors, but not all are launch capable, the USAF told Universe Today at a prelaunch media briefing.

The USAF furnishes the Peacekeeper motors to Orbital ATK after first refurbishing the booster stages at Vandenberg AFB, Ca.

Orbital ATK then upgrades the stages by adding their own “flight-proven avionics, structures, software and other components that are common among Orbital ATK’s space launch vehicles” and integrating the firms Orion 38 solid rocket motors for the two upper stages.

“A combined government and contractor team of mission partners executed final ground activities including a Launch Base Compatibility Test to verify satellite integrity after shipment, an intersegment test to verify communication compatibility from the satellite to the on-orbit operations center and the final battery reconditioning for launch, prior to its integration with the Minotaur IV launch vehicle,” says the USAF.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite Minotaur IV ORS-5, TDRS-M, CRS-12, and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. 

Ken Kremer

Minotaur IV ORS-5 Mission Trajectory. Credit: Orbital ATK


Learn more about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, upcoming Minotaur IV ORS-5 military launch on Aug. 25, recent ULA Atlas TDRS-M NASA comsat on Aug. 18, 2017 , SpaceX Dragon CRS-12 resupply launch to ISS on Aug. 14, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL: 

Aug 25-26: “2017 Total Solar Eclipse, Minotaur IV ORS-5, TDRS-M NASA comsat, SpaceX CRS-12 resupply launches to the ISS, Intelsat35e, BulgariaSat 1 and NRO Spysat, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew capsules from Boeing and SpaceX , Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, ULA Atlas/John Glenn Cygnus launch to ISS, SBIRS GEO 3 launch, GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander, SpaceX and Orbital ATK cargo missions to the ISS, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Stacking the 4th stage of the Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket in preparation for the August 25, 2017 ORS-5 launch from Space Launch Complex 46, Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida. Credit: Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket description. Credit: Orbital ATK/USAF


Quelle: UT


Update: 26.08.2017 / 7.40 MESZ


Start von Minotaur 4 mit ORS-5 Satelliten - LIVE-Frams:























Quelle: USAF



Minotaur rocket roars from Cape Canaveral

Minotaur IV rocket launches from Cape


Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV, making its first launch from Florida, shot from long-dormant Launch Complex 46 at 2:04 a.m. Posted Aug. 26, 2017 Orbital ATK video.

A rocket powered by remnants of a Cold War nuclear missile bolted from Cape Canaveral early Saturday with an Air Force satellite that will track threats to military spacecraft orbiting high overhead.

Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV, making its first flight from Florida, shot from long-dormant Launch Complex 46 at 2:04 a.m., catapulted by 500,000 pounds of thrust generated by the first of three decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile motors.

Within a half-hour, the five-stage, solid-fueled rocket dropped off SensorSat, a coffee table-sized satellite, about 370 miles over the equator.  

From that vantage point, the $87.5 million mission will survey a region 22,000 miles higher up known as geostationary orbit or the “GEO belt,” home to critical national security satellites providing intelligence, communications, missile warning and weather data.

“It’s sort of analogous to a surveillance radar at an airport, which goes around and around and around and around, surveilling the domain,” said Grant Stokes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, which built the satellite.



The 250-pound telescope will record the brightness and position of spacecraft seen as dots far above it. More capable spacecraft, including two pairs patrolling the higher orbit, will be able to take closer looks at any objects of interest.

Those could include potentially crippling space junk, but also Russian or Chinese spacecraft making aggressive maneuvers.

“This is all part of the U.S. military’s renewed concern about being able to detect potential threats to its satellites in geostationary orbit,” said Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation. “It’s increasingly concerned about other satellites or objects trying to get close to those satellites, either to do intelligence, but also to perhaps try and deny, disrupt, degrade, destroy them.”

That’s because space assets are more ingrained in daily operations than ever before.

“There’s basically not a military operation the U.S. has today that doesn’t rely on space to some extent,” said Weeden.

Start von Minotaur 4 auf Cape Canaveral Minotaur 4 - ORS-5 Launch auf Cape Canaveral Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung für Minotaur 4 auf Cape Canaveral 


Freitag, 25. August 2017 - 21:30 Uhr

Planet Erde - Studie: Earth may have underground ocean three times that on surface


Scientists say rock layer hundreds of miles down holds vast amount of water, opening up new theories on how planet formed


After decades of searching scientists have discovered that a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, potentially transforming our understanding of how the planet was formed.

The water is locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite about 660km (400 miles) beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University in the US co-authored the study published in the journal Science and said the discovery suggested Earth’s water may have come from within, driven to the surface by geological activity, rather than being deposited by icy comets hitting the forming planet as held by the prevailing theories.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” Jacobsen said.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”

Jacobsen and his colleagues are the first to provide direct evidence that there may be water in an area of the Earth’s mantle known as the transition zone. They based their findings on a study of a vast underground region extending across most of the interior of the US.


Ringwoodite acts like a sponge due to a crystal structure that makes it attract hydrogen and trap water. 


If just 1% of the weight of mantle rock located in the transition zone was water it would be equivalent to nearly three times the amount of water in our oceans, Jacobsen said.

The study used data from the USArray, a network of seismometers across the US that measure the vibrations of earthquakes, combined with Jacobsen’s lab experiments on rocks simulating the high pressures found more than 600km underground.

It produced evidence that melting and movement of rock in the transition zone – hundreds of kilometres down, between the upper and lower mantles – led to a process where water could become fused and trapped in the rock.

The discovery is remarkable because most melting in the mantle was previously thought to occur at a much shallower distance, about 80km below the Earth’s surface.

Jacobsen told the New Scientist that the hidden water might also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years. "If [the stored water] wasn't there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out," he said.

Quelle: theguardian


Tags: Planet Erde - Studie: Earth may have underground 'ocean' three times that on surface 


Freitag, 25. August 2017 - 07:55 Uhr

Astronomie - Phoenicid meteor shower from dead comet arises again after 58 years



The Phoenicid meteor shower (named after the constellation Phoenix) was discovered by the first Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition on December 5, 1956, during their voyage in the Indian Ocean. However, it has not been observed again. This has left astronomers with a mystery: where did the Phoenicids come from and where did they go?

Two Japanese teams have found an answer to these questions by linking the Phoenicid meteor shower to a vanished celestial body, Comet Blanpain. This comet appeared in 1819 for the first time and then disappeared. In 2003 astronomers discovered a minor body moving along the same orbit as Comet Blanpain had over 100 years ago and showed that it was the remains of Comet Blanpain. The iconic coma and tail of a comet are made of gas and dust which escaped from the surface of the nucleus. The reason why Comet Blanpain reappeared as an asteroid was probably because all the gas and dust have escaped from this central body. Now rather than calling the object a "comet" it might be more accurate to refer to it as an "asteroid."

Although all of the gas and dust have escaped from Comet Blanpain into space, they now form a dust trail which revolves along almost the same orbit as Comet Blanpain itself, and gradually spread along the orbit. When such a dust trail encounters the Earth, the dust particles impinge into the atmosphere and ablate, which are observed as meteors.

Assuming that Comet Blanpain is the parent body of the Phoenicids, the teams performed calculations and predicted that the Phoenicids should be observed again on December 1, 2014. Following this prediction, the two teams of Japanese astronomers carried out a campaign of observation. One team led by Yasunori Fujiwara, a graduate student at the Department of Polar Science, SOKENDAI(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), and Takuji Nakamura, a professor of the National Institute of Polar Research/SOKENDAI, traveled to North Carolina, U.S.A., and observed there. The other team led by Mikiya Sato, an astronomical officer at Kawasaki Municipal Science Museum, and Junichi Watanabe, a professor of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/SOKENDAI, visited La Palma Island in the Spanish territory off the West coast of Africa for observations. The weather condition at the former site was comparatively good, but more clouds covered at the latter site. Therefore, Sato's team supplementary used data from other sources such as NASA's All Sky Fireball Network and radar observations at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Just because meteors appeared, doesn't mean they are part of the Phoenicid meteor shower; Earth is bombarded by a constant background of sporadic meteors every night. In order to distinguish Phoenicids from sporadic meteors, both teams analyzed the data, by back-tracing each meteor trail to distinguish the meteor shower. If many meteors come from the same point in the sky, then they are part of the same meteor shower. Out of the 138 meteors observed at North Carolina, 29 were identified as Phoenicids. The Phoenicid activity peaked between 8 pm to 9 pm local time, very close to the predicted peak of the Phoenicid meteor shower, which was 7 pm to 8 pm. This fact has further supported that the observed meteors back-traced to the Phoenicid radiant are surely from Phoenicid meteor shower. The data collected by the other sources also supported this result.

But not everything matched the predictions. One discrepancy between the prediction and the observations was that the number of Phoenicids observed was only 10% of the prediction. This indicates that Comet Blanpain was active, but only to a limited extent when the observed meteors were released from the comet when it approached the Sun in the early 20th Century. To summarize, the observed meteor shower is the first example for the astronomers where the evolution of a comet has been estimated. Fujiwara enthusiastically states, "we would like to apply this technique to many other meteor showers for which the parent bodies are currently without clear cometary activities, in order to investigate the evolution of minor bodies in the Solar System."

Fujiwara's research is being published in the "Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan," and Sato's research will appear in the journal "Planetary and Space Science" very soon.

Quelle: AAAS

Tags: Astronomie - Phoenicid meteor shower from dead comet arises again after 58 years 


Freitag, 25. August 2017 - 07:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erfolgreicher Start von SpaceX-Falcon 9 mit Taiwan’s National Space Organization, Formosat-5 Satelliten


Falcon 9 rocket test-fired for California launch next week


The Falcon 9 rocket slated to launch Aug. 24 with the Formosat 5 satellite test-fires its nine main engines Saturday. Credit: SpaceX

A commercial Falcon 9 rocket in the final stages of launch preparations fired its nine Merlin main engines Saturday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, verifying its readiness for liftoff with a Taiwanese Earth-imaging payload Thursday.

SpaceX engineers rolled out the two-stage rocket Friday to Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg, and the Falcon 9 launch team oversaw a computer-controlled countdown and fueling sequence ahead of Saturday’s static fire test.

Restraints kept the rocket firmly grounded on its hillside launch pad overlooking the Pacific Ocean as the Merlin 1D engines throttled up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust for several seconds.

The hold-down firing is a customary part of all SpaceX launch campaigns, used by engineers to confirm the readiness of the launcher and ground systems, and as an exercise of the ground team.

The next step in SpaceX’s launch campaign at Vandenberg will be the removal of the rocket from the pad for attachment of the Formosat 5 spacecraft, a Taiwanese satellite designed to test out the country’s domestic aerospace manufacturing capability and collect a range of black-and-white and color imagery of Earth.

Developed and funded by Taiwan’s National Space Organization, or NSPO, Formosat 5 weighs around 1,047 pounds (475 kilograms) with a full load of fuel, according to information posted on NSPO’s website.

After flying south from Vandenberg, the Falcon 9 rocket will send the Formosat 5 satellite into a 447-mile-high (720-kilometer) sun-synchronous orbit that passes near Earth’s poles.

Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 24, at 11:50 a.m. PDT (2:50 p.m. EDT; 1850 GMT) at the opening of a 44-minute launch window.

The launch will be the fifth time a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from Vandenberg, an Air Force-run base on California’s Central Coast northwest of Los Angeles. It will be the 40th Falcon 9 launch overall, including flights departing from SpaceX launch pads in Florida.

“We are proud to provide a safe and secure launch location for our mission partners,” said Col. Gregory E. Wood, vice commander of the Air Force’s 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg. “This mission is the practical demonstration of the professional spirit and teamwork found in the everyday operations of Team Vandenberg and SpaceX.”

SpaceX plans to return the Falcon 9’s first stage to a drone ship positioned downrange in the Pacific Ocean for refurbishment and reuse. The booster launching Formosat 5 is fresh from the factory and making its first flight.

Formosat 5 will only take up a fraction of the Falcon 9’s lift capability, and officials from NSPO and SpaceX originally planned to launch the satellite on a Falcon 1e rocket. But SpaceX discontinued the small launcher, which was powered by a single Merlin booster engine, in favor of developing the Falcon 9 and larger rockets.

The Taiwanese government, through the National Space Organization, originally paid SpaceX around $23 million in 2010 for the launch, less than half of the advertised price of a Falcon 9 launch today.

Formosat 5 carries two instruments.

One is an optical imaging payload capable of resolving features as small as 2 meters — about 6.6 feet — in black-and-white. The camera has half that resolution in color mode.

An advanced ionospheric probe from the National Central University in Taiwan is also aboard Formosat 5.

The ionospheric instrument is an “all-in-one plasma sensor to measure ionospheric plasma concentrations, velocities, and temperatures over a wide range of spatial scales,” according to a fact sheet released by NSPO. “The transient and long-term variations of ionospheric plasma can be monitored as seismic precursors associated with earthquakes.”

Formosat 5 was to be accompanied by a package of approximately 90 small satellites fastened to a multi-payload Sherpa adapter developed by Spaceflight, a Seattle-based company that builds lightweight spacecraft and brokers launch services for CubeSats on rideshare rocket flights.

But Spaceflight canceled that plan after the Formosat 5 launch faced years of delays in the aftermath of two Falcon 9 rocket failures that combined to ground SpaceX’s fleet for nearly a year. Formosat 5’s launch was shuffled later in SpaceX’s manifest for unexplained reasons.

Spaceflight has reserved a dedicated Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg next year with a Sherpa space tug expected to loft around 90 small satellites on the same rocket.

Meanwhile, the Seattle launch broker arranged for most of the 90 satellites slated to launch with Formosat 5 to fly on other rockets, including an Indian PSLV mission and a Russian Soyuz flight earlier this year.

Several others were rebooked on the next Sherpa adapter flying on a Falcon 9 next year.

Next week’s launch from California will mark the 12th Falcon 9 flight of the year, coming in the heels of an Aug. 14 mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida that deployed a space station-build supply ship in orbit

Quelle: SN


Update: 21.08.2017


First domestically built satellite to launch Thursday



The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle that will be used to launch the Formosat-5 satellite next week is pictured at Vandenberg Air Force base in an undated photograph.

Screengrab from the SpaceX Web site

Final preparations are under way for the launch of Formosat-5, Taiwan’s first domestically developed and built satellite, from a US air base next week, an official said on Friday.

The satellite, which arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, is scheduled to be sent into space on Thursday.

The National Space Organization’s (NSPO) Formosat-5 project director Chang Ho-pen (張和本) said that testing in past weeks indicated that the satellite is functioning normally.

Although it took some time to integrate Formosat-5 with its launch vehicle, SpaceX’s Falcon 9, work has been successfully completed, Chang said.

Through Formosat-5, Taiwan will show the world that it is capable of independently building satellites, he said.

The satellite was designed by the NSPO and built by more than 50 domestic teams, including teams from CMOS Sensor Inc and National Central University.

The high-resolution optical remote-sensing satellite is the NSPO’s fourth satellite since its space program started in 1991, and the first to be fully produced domestically, from design and manufacture to assembly and testing.

It is to replace Formosat-2, which was retired in August last year.

Formosat-5 is to collect data for scientific research, passing over Taiwan once every two days, the NSPO said.

The satellite is to provide 2m panchromatic and 4m multispectral resolution images for a wide array of applications, including governmental, disaster forecasting and mitigation, national security and environmental observation tasks, as well as international technological exchanges, academic research and international humanitarian assistance, the NSPO said.

The satellite is to carry an Advanced Ionospheric Probe, which can develop weather models in space, monitor ionospheric disturbances and study seismic precursors associated with earthquakes, the organization said.

It took six years and NT$5.7 billion (US$188 million) to develop the 450kg satellite, which is 2.8m high, and 1.6m in diameter, the NSPO said.

Quelle: Taipei Times


Update: 23.08.2017


Taiwan's First Home-Grown Remote-Sensing Satellite Stands Ready for Thursday Falcon 9 Launch

The Upgraded Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D+ engines burn furiously for 3.5 seconds on Saturday, 19 August, ahead of the Formosat 5 mission. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

Taiwan’s first fully home-grown satellite, Formosat-5, will hitch a ride to orbit on Thursday, 24 August, as SpaceX ratchets its flight rate back up after a summer of infrastructure upgrades and maintenance on the East and West Coasts of the United States. Launch of the 12th Upgraded Falcon 9 of the year is targeted to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., during a 44-minute “window”, which opens at 11:50 a.m. PDT. It will mark SpaceX’s fifth flight out of mountain-ringed Vandenberg and its third in 2017 alone, coming on the heels of two batches of Iridium NEXT communications satellites, the first in January and more recently in late June.

Quelle: AS


Update: 25.08.2017


Falcon 9 launches Taiwanese remote sensing satellite



WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully launched a long-delayed remote sensing satellite for the government of Taiwan Aug. 24, executing another first stage landing in the process.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 2:51 p.m. Eastern, at the beginning of a 42-minute launch window. SpaceX reported no technical issues during the countdown, and foggy conditions at the launch site earlier in the morning partially cleared by launch time.

The rocket’s only payload, the Formosat-5 remote sensing satellite, separated from the upper stage a little more than 11 minutes after launch. The satellite was deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 720 kilometers. SpaceX, during the launch webcast, declared the launch a success.


Formosat-5 was built by Taiwan’s space agency, the National Space Organization, known by the acronym NSPO. The 450-kilogram spacecraft was the first such satellite built domestically by Taiwan, and succeeds Formosat-2, retired a year ago. The spacecraft carries cameras capable of producing panchromatic images at a resolution of two meters and color images at a resolution of four meters. It also carries an ionospheric science instrument developed by a Taiwanese university.

NSPO awarded the launch contract for Formosat-5 to SpaceX in 2010, at the time intending to launch the spacecraft on SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 1 rocket. SpaceX later discontinued the Falcon 1, moving Formosat-5 to a larger Falcon 9 vehicle. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but NSPO is widely understood to be paying far less than the Falcon 9 list price of more than $60 million for this launch.

At the time of the contract, SpaceX expected to launch Formosat-5 by early 2014. The change in launch vehicles and delays in SpaceX’s launch schedules, including those caused by two Falcon 9 failures in 2015 and 2016, significantly delayed the launch.

SpaceX previously planned to fly a secondary payload, the Sherpa bus from Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries, which would have deployed nearly 90 small satellites after separating from the Falcon 9 upper stage. However, Spaceflight announced in March that it had decided to find alternative rides for those secondary payloads because of “significant” delays it expected in the Formosat-5 launch.

The launch also features another landing of the Falcon 9 first stage, in this case on a droneship called “Just Read the Instructions” in the Pacific Ocean. This was the 15th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage in 40 liftoffs, and the ninth to land on a ship.

The launch was the 12th Falcon 9 mission of 2017, and the second in 10 days, after the launch of a Dragon cargo spacecraft Aug. 14 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The next Falcon 9 launch, of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane, is planned for early September from Florida.

Quelle: SN


Falcon 9 successfully launches Taiwan’s Formosat-5

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SpaceX launched its fortieth Falcon 9 Thursday, carrying the Formosat-5 spacecraft for the Taiwan’s National Space Organisation and the Republic of China’s National Space Organisation. The launch, which included a successful landing of the first stage aboard the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, occurred at the start of a 44-minute window that opened at 11:50 local time (18:50 UTC) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Falcon 9 Launch:

Formosat-5 is an Earth remote sensing satellite which was built and operated by the National Space Organisation of the Republic of China (Taiwan). It is the first spacecraft larger than a CubeSat to be developed and constructed by the Republic of China, although Taiwanese officials proudly insist this is an ingenious spacecraft.

Equipped with the Remote Sensing Imager (RSI) payload, providing multispectral and panchromatic imaging capabilities, Formosat-5 will replace the Formosat-2 satellite which was retired last August.

Formosat-5 also carries the Advanced Ionospheric Probe, or AIP, package, which will study the behavior of plasma within Earth’s ionosphere. The spacecraft has a mass of 475 kilograms (1050 lb) and is expected to operate for at least five years. It will be placed into a near-polar sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 720 kilometers (447 miles, 389 nautical miles).

The Remote Sensing Imager is the primary instrument aboard Formosat-5. Built by a partnership of the National Space Organisation and industrial partners within the Republic of China, the instrument is a push-broom imager with a 45-centimetre (18-inch) Cassegrain reflector telescope.

It is expected to produce panchromatic images with a resolution of up to two meters (6.5 feet) per pixel, and multispectral images with a resolution of four meters (12 feet) per pixel. Multispectral images will consist of red, green, blue and near-infrared bands.

Taiwan’s National Central University is responsible for the Advanced Ionospheric Probe (AIP) aboard the spacecraft. This payload consists of a planar Langmuir probe, a retarding potential analyzer, an ion trap and an ion drift meter. It will record the composition and density of plasma within Earth’s ionosphere, the velocity of incident ions and the temperature of ions and electrons within the ionosphere.

Taiwan’s National Space Organisation – also known as the NSPO, an abbreviation of its previous name, the National Space Program Office – is the country’s national space agency. Formosat-5 is the latest in a series of missions in the NSPO’s Formosat series of remote sensing spacecraft.

The first satellite, Formosat-1, was launched in January 1999 aboard Lockheed Martin’s Athena I rocket. Formosat-2, the spacecraft which Formosat-5 will replace, was deployed by a Taurus rocket in May 2004.

At the times of their launches, Formosat-1 and 2 were named ROCSAT-1 and ROCSAT-2 respectively, taking on their new names in late 2004. Although only designed for a five-year operational life, Formosat-2 completed twelve years of service before a malfunction last June forced its retirement two months later.

These spacecraft were joined in orbit in April 2006 by the six-satellite Formosat-3 constellation, also known as the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology Ionosphere and Climate, or COSMIC. A joint mission between the Republic of China and the United States, these satellites were deployed by a Minotaur I rocket.

A replacement constellation, Formosat-7 or COSMIC-2, are slated for launch aboard the second Falcon Heavy launch, scheduled for next year.

Formosat-5 rode to orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, flying from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. In 2010, when NSPO originally signed a contract with SpaceX to deploy Fomosat-5, the spacecraft was slated for a late-2013 launch aboard a Falcon 1e rocket from Omelek Island in the Pacific Ocean.

The Falcon 1e, an enhanced and more powerful version of the Falcon 1 design, never flew, and SpaceX launches from the Omelek site stopped following the fifth and final Falcon 1 mission in July 2009.

Launching alone atop the much larger and more powerful Falcon 9, Formosat-5 makes for one of that rocket’s lightest payloads. A Spaceflight Incorporated rideshare payload, consisting of a SHERPA adaptor with up to ninety small satellites, had been scheduled to fly as a secondary payload however this was removed from the launch due to uncertainty over the launch date, after Falcon 9 was grounded towards the end of last year.


Thursday’s launch was the fortieth flight of the Falcon 9, which first flew in June 2010, and the rocket’s twelfth mission of 2017. The launch comes almost a year after a Falcon 9 vehicle exploded at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) while it was being fuelled for a static fire test.

The Amos 6 satellite, which the rocket had been due to launch a few days after the test, was destroyed in the explosion and the launch complex sustained heavy damage from which it has not yet returned to service.

The Amos 6 accident occurred during a ground test, so Falcon 9’s only in-flight failure came during the June 2015 launch of CRS-7, a Dragon spacecraft intended to resupply the International Space Station.

A strut within the second stage broke late during first stage flight, allowing a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) containing helium – used to pressurize Falcon’s tanks – to break loose and vent its contents into the liquid oxygen tank. This overpressurized the tank, leading to the structural failure of the stage and subsequently the rocket.

These failures have been the exception, rather than the norm, for a rocket that is quickly becoming a workhorse of the commercial space industry.

As well as deploying commercial Earth imaging and communications spacecraft – including fleets of satellites for Orbcomm and Iridium – Falcon regularly boosts CRS Dragon’s to the ISS, has launched the DSCOVRand Jason-3 spacecraft for NASA, and is beginning to eat into United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) near-monopoly on military launch contracts.

In May Falcon deployed the NROL-76 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, while the rocket’s next launch is expected to carry the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane into orbit for its fifth mission – the previous four flights having been boosted by ULA’s Atlas V.

From next year, Falcon 9 is also expected to carry crews to the International Space Station via a manned version of Dragon, developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

Falcon 9 was designed to be at least partially reusable. While early launches – using a version of the rocket now retrospectively known as Falcon 9 v1.0 – unsuccessfully attempted to return the first stage via a parachute system, SpaceX has since developed and refined techniques to achieve a powered landing.

Depending upon mission requirements, Falcon’s first stage, or Core, can now either fly back to the launch site or, if additional performance is required to complete the primary mission – delivering the payload to orbit – an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) can be deployed to perform recovery downrange.

The Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, a converted barge, will be used for the recovery attempt during Thursday’s launch. The first stage will be targeting Just Read The Instructions, the West Coast ASDS, positioned off the coast of California.

Despite the low mass and target orbit for the Formosat launch, SpaceX is yet to attempt a return-to-launch-site landing on a mission from Vandenberg. A landing pad has been constructed on the site of the former Space Launch Complex 4W.

Thursday’s launch marked SpaceX’s twentieth attempt to land a Falcon 9 first stage, not including the CRS-7 launch which failed before recovery could be attempted. Fifteen landings have been conducted successfully – six on land and nine at sea – including the last ten attempts. This latest attempt was another success.

Of the three previous launches from Vandenberg on which recovery has been attempted, two cores were recovered. The third, during January 2016’s Jason-3 launch, landed on target, however, one of the landing legs failed to lock into position, leaving the core to topple over and explode after touchdown. (L2 photo of Jason-3 booster remains in a SpaceX’s Los Angeles yard).

Two recovered first stages have been reused on subsequent missions – the first stage recovered from last year’s CRS-8 Dragon launch flew again as part of the rocket that deployed the SES-10 communications satellite in March, while the first stage from January’s launch of ten Iridium-NeXT satellites was reflown in June with BulgariaSat-2.

Thursday’s launch uses a newly-built first stage, Core 1038.

The Falcon 9 that deployed Formosat-5 was the Falcon 9 v1.2 model, or Falcon 9 Full Thrust, which was introduced in December 2015. The third major revision of the Falcon 9 design – after the original or “v1.0” model and the stretched and uprated Falcon 9 v1.1 which was used from 2013 to 2015.

Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket, with both stages burning RP-1 kerosene propellant oxidized by supercold liquid oxygen. It took a little over eleven minutes for Falcon to inject Formosat-5 into the planned orbit. Three seconds before Thursday’s countdown reached zero, the first stage – Core 1038 – ignited its nine Merlin-1D engines. At zero, Falcon 9 lifted off to begin her climb towards low Earth orbit.

The nine engines of Core 1038 powered Falcon for the first two minutes and twenty-eight seconds of her ascent. As the rocket climbed through the atmosphere, it experienced peak aerodynamic pressure about sixty-nine seconds into the mission.

Four seconds after the end of the first stage burn, Core 1038 separated from the second stage, which then ignited its single vacuum-optimised Merlin-1D seven seconds after separation. Fourteen seconds into the second stage burn the payload fairing, which protected the satellite as the rocket passed through the atmosphere, was jettisoned.

The second stage will only made one burn prior to spacecraft separation, inserting Formosat-5 into a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit. This burn lasted six minutes and thirty-eight seconds. After second stage engine cutoff, or SECO, the rocket coasted for 121 seconds before spacecraft separation.

About half a minute before SECO, at eight minutes and 45 seconds mission elapsed time, the first stage reignited a subset of its engines to perform an entry burn. This slowed the stage as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, helping to protect it as it falls back to Earth.

The stage landed aboard Just Read The Instructions at ten minutes and 47 seconds elapsed time, after a landing burn, using a single engine, shortly before this time. Following a successful landing, Core 1038 will be secured aboard the drone ship, which will then convey to Los Angeles.

Thursday’s launch, the twelfth of the year for SpaceX and the Falcon 9, comes less than a fortnight after the rocket’s previous launch, from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The next Falcon 9 launch will also occur from Kennedy, with the rocket expected to deploy an X-37B mission for the US Air Force on 7 September. The rocket’s next launch from Vandenberg is scheduled for the end of September, with another ten Iridium communications satellites.

Quelle: NS

Tags: Falcon 9 successfully launches Taiwan’s Formosat-5 Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung für SpaceX-Falcon 9 mit Taiwan’s National Space Organization, Formosat-5 Satelliten 


Freitag, 25. August 2017 - 07:20 Uhr

Luftfahrt - An Eclipse First: Wingsuit Skydivers Take Flight During Total Solar Eclipse (Video)



Video footage of the jump – the first time skydivers in wingsuits did a coordinated jump during a total solar eclipse – was released on YouTube. It shows the crew leaping out of the plane over Madras, Oregon, at 10:18 a.m. PDT (1718 GMT). Each wingsuit pilot wore a GoPro camera to capture footage of the event.

The video offers a first-person perspective of one of the jumpers as he falls from an altitude of about 14,000 feet (4,300 meters). Below is a view of farm fields and a river; above is the eclipsing sun, with its corona peeking out from behind the moon. [See Amazing Photos of the Total Solar Eclipse from 40,000 Feet!]

In subsequent shots, the camera view catches up with five other wingsuit jumpers below, including one who is facing the sky while falling toward Earth. Then the skydivers fly in formation in the shadow of the moon. 

The video ends with a parachute deployed in darkness, and the camera-wielding wingsuiter raises his hands in triumph.

"The idea of flying 10 wingsuits into a solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, one I'm glad to be doing with this incredibly talented group of individuals," Marshall Miller, a professional wingsuit pilot who took part in the jump, said in a statement. [The Most Epic Photos of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse]

"I try to make the most of these special occasions. I want to do something on these days to actually remember them specifically for something we did on that day, more so than something we saw," he added.

The short clip, released by Outside TV, is a preview of a longer video. A behind-the-scenes feature, called "Solar Formation," will air at a later date (to be announced) on the Outside TV Network.




Quelle: SC, YouTube

Tags: Luftfahrt - An Eclipse First: Wingsuit Skydivers Take Flight During Total Solar Eclipse (Video) 


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