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Monday, December 7, 2009

SpaceShipTwo, also known as the VSS Enterprise, as seen with the aircraft that will launch it into space: the White Knight II (also known as Eve).
Alan Radecki / BoingBoing.net

SPACESHIPTWO Revealed... The new spacecraft, dubbed Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Enterprise, made its official debut at its manufacturing facility in California’s Mojave Desert tonight. So who here has $200,000 to spend on a supersonic flight to the edge of space? (I wish I did... Duh.) This excludes the price of the plane ticket to New Mexico...where SpaceShipTwo and its sister vehicles will be based (at Spaceport America). Sir Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic owns the spacecraft.

SpaceShipTwo as seen with White Knight II inside a hangar.

SpaceShipTwo as seen from its starboard side.

Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson poses in front of SpaceShipTwo.

All three images courtesy of Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The ARES I-X rocket soars through the sky on October 28, 2009.
Canon / Scott Andrews

FINALLY! After a day’s worth of delays due to weather concerns and some Joe Schmoe errantly steering his cargo ship into restricted waters off the coast of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) yesterday, the Ares I-X rocket finally launched on its much-anticipated test flight this morning. And its flight sure was triboelectrifying! If you don’t know what that word means, look it up. Just don’t ask anyone who oversaw the test at KSC’s Launch Control today what it means... They’ll probably smack you upside the head in a sec.

The ARES I-X rocket successfully lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 28, 2009.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

The ARES I-X rocket successfully lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 28, 2009.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

With space shuttle ATLANTIS in the foreground, the ARES I-X rocket successfully lifts off from Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 28, 2009.
Canon / Scott Andrews

Here’s the video of the launch:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Moon shines above the ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

TODAY’S THE DAY... Bad weather might thwart this morning’s launch attempt (at 5 AM, Pacific Daylight Time) of NASA's Ares I-X rocket, but oh well. Just thought I’d share more awesome photos of the test vehicle at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39B in Florida...

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Friday, October 23, 2009

Space shuttle ATLANTIS (foreground) and ARES I-X (background) at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39, on October 23, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Ready For Launch...

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NASA GIVES 'GO' FOR THE ARES I-X TEST ROCKET LAUNCH ON OCT. 27 (Press Release)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA has completed a review of the Ares I-X development rocket's readiness for its flight test and selected Tuesday, Oct. 27, as the official launch date. Liftoff is scheduled for 8 a.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Ares I-X launch date was announced after a flight test readiness review at Kennedy. During the meeting, senior NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the test and determined the rocket, support systems and procedures are ready for launch.

"I am proud of the work this team has done to ready this test rocket for launch," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. "This is the first time in more than 30 years that NASA has built a vehicle in a new configuration so this has been a valuable learning experience.

"This test will yield important data to support the nation's next steps in exploration. There is no substitute for hard data - flight testing clarifies the distinction between imagined outcomes and real flight experience."

The 28-mile high, two-minute flight of the Ares I-X, an uncrewed development rocket, will provide NASA with an opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations, while gathering critical data for the Ares I rocket and future launch vehicles.

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The present and the future (hopefully)...both poised for launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The ARES I-X rocket rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

ARES I-X Update...

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NASA'S ARES I-X ROCKET ARRIVES AT LAUNCH PAD IN FLORIDA (Press Release)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - For the first time in more than a quarter century, a new vehicle is sitting at Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ares I-X flight test vehicle arrived at the pad atop of a giant crawler-transporter at approximately 7:45 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

The crawler-transporter left Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building at 1:39 a.m., traveling less than 1 mph during the 4.2-mile journey. The rocket was secured on the launch pad at 9:17 a.m.

The vehicle is scheduled to launch at 8 a.m. on Oct. 27. This test flight of the Ares I-X rocket will provide NASA an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, models, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I launch vehicle.

The Ares I rocket is being designed to carry astronauts to space in the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The Ares I-X test flight also will allow NASA to gather critical data during ascent of the vehicle's integrated stack, which includes the Ares I with a simulated upper stage, Orion and launch abort system. Data collected from more than 700 sensors throughout the rocket will begin to confirm the vehicle as a whole is safe and stable in flight before astronauts begin traveling into orbit.

"With the arrival of Ares I-X at the pad, this milestone demonstrates NASA's world-class ability to conceptually design, build and process a new launch vehicle in just under four years," said Bob Ess, mission manager for Ares I-X at Kennedy. "Nearly 2,000 NASA and contractor employees located throughout the United States worked together in an unprecedented fashion, resulting in the new vehicle ready for flight."

During the week before launch, technicians at the pad will perform a variety of electrical and mechanical checks to ready the vehicle for flight, including hydraulic power unit hot fire, steering tests and internal power verifications using flight batteries.

United Space Alliance of Houston is NASA's prime contractor for the ground processing of the Ares I-X rocket.

"Processing for the Ares I-X test flight in parallel with space shuttle operations has been a true challenge involving people and hardware from across the country, and we're very proud of what the team has accomplished," said Mark Nappi, vice president of Launch and Recovery Systems for United Space Alliance.

ATK Space Systems of Magna, Utah, is NASA's prime contractor for the first stage of the rocket.

"The NASA and contractor teamwork displayed over the last four years has been the catalyst that brought us to this important milestone today," said Bob Herman, ATK's vice president of Exploration Systems for Kennedy Space Center Operations. "As the Ares I first stage provider, we are looking forward to receiving invaluable data during the flight test."

At the Flight Test Readiness Review on Oct. 23, mission managers will finalize the launch date and provide the team with a final "go" or "no go" for launch.

Ares I-X is an uncrewed, suborbital development test in a modified Ares I configuration. Ares I-X is the first developmental flight test of the Constellation Program, which includes the Ares I and V rockets, Orion and the Altair lunar lander.

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The ARES I-X rocket rolls toward Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the Sun rises on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket approaches Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

The ARES I-X rocket approaches Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket arrives at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B...as seen from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 20, 2009.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

The ARES I-X rocket at Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on October 22, 2009.
NASA / Jack Pfaller

Sunday, September 27, 2009

ONE MONTH FROM NOW, the Ares I-X rocket will be launched on a flight test from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I don’t care what the naysayers say, I’m stoked.

An artist's concept of the Ares I-X rocket at Launch Pad 39B in Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Courtesy of nasa1fan/MSFC

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The International Space Station, as of September 8, 2009.
NASA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... With the scheduled retirement of the space shuttle taking place less than a year from now, just thought I’d share pics of the vehicles that will be taking up the slack of transporting crews and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) once the shuttle is gone. Now in operation are Russia’s Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (or ATV) and Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle (or HTV). The images of the spacecraft are in the order that they are listed above:

A manned Russian Soyuz spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

An unmanned Russian Progress spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

A European ATV spacecraft, as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

A Japanese HTV spacecraft (lower left), as seen by a crewmember onboard the International Space Station.
NASA

Future spacecraft that will ferry crews and cargo to the ISS are SpaceX’s Dragon vehicle, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus cargo ship and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Dragon and Cygnus are set to make their maiden flights sometime next year, while Orion won’t be operational till at least 2017. Better late than never.

An artist's concept of the Dragon spacecraft in Earth orbit.
SpaceX

An artist's concept of the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
Orbital Sciences Corporation

An artist's concept of the Orion spacecraft approaching the International Space Station.
NASA

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Buzz Lightyear is back on terra firma after his 468-day stay onboard the International Space Station. He returned to Earth onboard the space shuttle Discovery last Friday...and will now be given a ticker-tape parade at Walt Disney World in Florida on October 2. I'm serious. Lucky lil’ plastic dude.

Buzz Lightyear poses proudly in front of the space shuttle Discovery, which took him home on September 11, 2009.

Buzz Lightyear gazes at the spacecraft that took him home on September 11, 2009.

Both images courtesy of NASA

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Space shuttle Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.
Danny Moloshok / Reuters

YESTERDAY, one of my coworkers and I went down to Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert to watch the landing of space shuttle Discovery (which concluded mission STS-128). Overlooking the fact we were like, 5 miles from the runway and didn’t actually see the shuttle touch down because it was obscured by hills by the time it reached the ground, the viewing was awesome. On the other hand, this made me realize that I totally need to replace my piece of s*** digital camera because it just couldn’t zoom in enough to get a decent shot of the homebound orbiter. At least my coworker got better shots (and videos) of Discovery...but that’s because his camera is 8 megapixels (mine is 7.3 megapixels) and has a good optical zoom.

A photo I took of space shuttle Endeavour landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on May 16, 1992.

This was the second time I watched a space shuttle landing in person. The first time was in May of 1992, when Endeavour touched down at Edwards (above) after concluding its maiden flight, STS-49. As you can see from the pic I posted, I had a much better vantage point of Endeavour’s arrival than I did for Discovery. That’s an understatement when all I captured was a friggin’ black dot in the sky (below). This makes me want to go to another shuttle landing in the Mojave Desert...just to view it from the same spot I was at 17 years ago, and to take pictures with a much better camera. I have till September of next year (which is when the shuttle is currently scheduled to retire; that may be pushed back to 2011) to do so.

A photo I took of, um, space shuttle Discovery landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.

One last thing... I guess I should be very fond of Discovery. I saw it on the launch pad (back in February of this year), saw it up in the night sky (while it was in space for mission STS-119), and saw it land. How many people get the opportunity to see a space shuttle in all three phases of flight (though seeing it on the pad doesn't really count...unless I actually saw it launch)? Apart from the astronauts and other die-hard space nerds, that is.

Posing for a pic after space shuttle Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on September 11, 2009.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
Gary Rothstein / EPA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... The launch of space shuttle Discovery was scrubbed for the second straight day, but oh well. When was the last time a shuttle launched on time? Um... 2007? Anyways, these three photos were taken during Discovery’s previous liftoff attempt yesterday. Meteorologists at NASA's Kennedy Space Center predicted an 80% chance of acceptable launch weather conditions for last night.

...

Needless to say, those meteorologists need a deduction in pay. That is all.

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
Justin Deniere / EPA

Xenon lights illuminate Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 24, 2009 (Pacific Time).
NASA / Ben Cooper

Friday, August 14, 2009

THESE PHOTOS PISS ME OFF...but not for the reasons you'd expect. NASA finally completed the assembly of the Ares I-X rocket yesterday...making it the first new launch vehicle to reside inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in almost 30 years. Unfortunately, thanks to a series of delays, including that caused by the Hubble Servicing Mission...which was scheduled to launch in May of last year but didn’t get off the ground till this year, and the results of the Obama-appointed Augustine committee (which will most likely recommend to the president that the Ares I program be scrapped), Ares I-X might never fly. Or it WILL fly...but it will be nothing more than a publicity stunt since the launch vehicle that it is a prototype for will most likely be cancelled (Hell... It's as much a waste of money assembling Ares I-X without launching it as it is flying the vehicle as nothing more than a "glorified model rocket". Just launch the damn thing). *Sigh.* Screw you Congress, for not giving NASA the money it needs to send astronauts beyond Low-Earth Orbit once more. And screw you Obama...for not having any vision for our space program, and relying on some presidential panel to give you an inkling of an idea for what direction NASA should take. F**K THAT.

The Ares I-X rocket stands completed inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, on August 13, 2009.
NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The International Space Station...as of July 28, 2009.
NASA

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Even though space shuttle Endeavour is no longer docked with the International Space Station (Endeavour is scheduled to land at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center tomorrow), just thought I’d share these two kick-ass images (below) that were taken of the two spacecraft from a ground-based telescope last Sunday. I found these photos on the On Orbit website.

A wide shot of space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station in transit in front of the Sun.

A close-up of space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station in transit in front of the Sun.
Both images courtesy of Thierry Legault / Look at Sciences

Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary, Apollo 11!

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin sets up a lunar experiment after he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to set foot on the Moon, on July 20, 1969.
NASA

In a bit of timing that pretty much wasn't coincidental, NASA released the images below last Friday...showing 5 of the 6 Apollo landing sites as recently seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The Apollo 12 landing site should be photographed by LRO in the coming weeks. Before conspiracy theorists out there label these pics as your typical works of Photoshop, LRO has yet to settle into its final and lower orbit around the Moon...which means future photos of these landing zones should have much better resolution than the ones posted below. And hopefully, the future pics will be in color.


The Apollo 11, 15, 16 and 17 landing sites as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) a few days ago.

The Apollo 14 landing site as seen by LRO a few days ago.

All Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images courtesy of NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Arizona State University