Archive for the 'Space Flight' Category

This season launches with, well, a look at a few launches. First up is OA-7, the second launch of a commercial cargo flight featuring Orbital ATK’s Cygnus atop a ULA Atlas V rocket. The International Space Station is living up to the last word in the name with the departure and  arrival of new crews as well, including the launch of a Soyuz carrying 2 NASA astronauts, first-timer Jack Fisher and storied veteran Peggy Whitson. For the latter, this trip will result in yet another few barriers broken for women and all humans alike as she settles in for a long stay in orbit. Just because this is his first trip to space, though, doesn’t mean Jack Fischer doesn’t have plenty to say already, and we bring you part of an exclusive unaired interview with him in celebration of his first trip to the laboratory. On the other side of Russian rocketry, reports indicate that there are issues with not just a few Proton engines but all of them. What implications could this have, not only for future Proton flights but for Russian aerospace as a whole? Meanwhile, while we’ve been on hiatus, SpaceX has managed to get one step closer to their vision of reusability by carrying the CRS-9 cargo towards the ISS by successfully relaunching a booster that had already been to the station.

From new beginnings we move to a spectacular mission that will be coming to a close soon with the latest findings about Enceladus from Cassini. The liquid plumes escaping through the moon’s icy shell have now been shown to contain molecular hydrogen (H2), generating increased questions about the possibility of organic matter in the hidden oceans. Meanwhile, similar plumes have been spotted on Europa using data from the Hubble Space Telescope which, while not yet able to be analyzed for chemical content, makes us wonder all the more if we just might not be truly alone even in our solar system, even if our only non-terrestrial neighbors would be microorganisms. Continuing with the search for potential habitability outside Earth, we begin our dive into this year’s Northeast Astronomy Forum with the search for exoplanets in the “Goldilocks” zone and the work of MIT planetary scientist and astrophysicist Sara Seager, her team, and the citizen scientists of planethunters.org. Planet hunting is hardly the only way amateur enthusiasts can contribute, though, and astrophotography is not only an area where amateurs can contribute significantly to scientific knowledge but can even make you a different sort of professional. Robert Reeves is just a guy with a camera who fell in love with imaging the moon decades ago and is now known as one of its best portrait-takers. We share a few of his tips and tricks and encourage you to take a look around the internet for his images. While we ramp up to this year’s main astronomical event for America, the total solar eclipse in August, our friend Alex Shimp brings us more about the talk by Joe Rao, FiOS1 meteorologist, on his experiences with eclipses. Swinging back around to launches, we finish up NEAF by discussing the latest news from United Launch Alliance about their commercial crew plans and the designs they are currently working with for these new systems. Finally, we check in with our own Mark Ratterman on what it’s like to volunteer with a FIRST Robotics team on their way to the championships to bring this super-sized season premiere to a feel-good close.

Show recorded 4-15-2017

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Alex Shimp, and Kassy Tamanini

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This week we must sadly open with the news of the passing of John Glenn, whose list of accomplishments has been surpassed by none, serving America with honor both on and off our planet for almost all of his 95 years. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t get much better quickly as we discuss the recent failure of the Progress 65 resupply mission. We discuss the impact on ISS operations and the reliability of not just Progress, but other cargo resupply providers and what sort of payloads might be a bit more critical than others.

On the brighter side, we get an update on a SpaceX return to flight following their September 1, 2016 anomaly. Still brighter, after numerous attempts were thwarted by bad luck with weather and small glitches, Virgin Galactic completed the first free flight test of the VSS Unity, successfully gliding the new craft for the first time since the tragic loss of the VSS Enterprise.

Perhaps brightest of all, though, is our coverage from the successful launch of the first in a new line of extremely powerful weather satellites, NOAA/NASA GOES-R (now GOES-16). Our own Sawyer Rosenstein was at Cape Canaveral to capture the sights and sounds of what turned out to be a spectacular night launch, and you really don’t want to miss our exclusive audio on this one (grab the headphones!). 

Then again, what’s brighter (to us) than our own sun? Pulling double special-duty this week, Sawyer brings an exclusive interview with Terry Kucera, an astrophysicist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar Physics Laboratory and the STEREO Deputy Scientist. She brings us an update on the recently-recovered STEREO-B and hits home the importance of and ongoing efforts in understanding our local variable star in the Space Age.

[An image gallery was added here. To view amazing images from the GOES-R launch, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com]

Show recorded 12-05-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini

Listen now:

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We begin this episode with an ending, as Rosetta joined its companion, Philae, on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on September 30, with confirmation arriving at mission control in Darmstadt at 11:19 UTC. This is hardly a time for mourning, but rather the celebration of an ambitious mission accomplished and still more data to learn from. While we await those studies we invite you to check out the latest installment of Rosetta’s cartoon and the short film Ambition.

Meanwhile, back in the States, Orbital ATK was preparing to return the Antares to flight. Carrying their Cygnus cargo ship full of supplies headed to the International Space Station, this launch has been plagued by storms in the Atlantic and other delays, and our own Gene Mikulka headed down early to keep an eye on the process and discusses what this launch means for the launch facility, the area around it, as well as for Orbital ATK and NASA.

Speaking of recovering from mishaps, this brings us down to the Kennedy Space Center and the investigation of what happened with SpaceX’ AMOS-6. Was it the second stage helium tank… or could it have been sabotage? The Washington Post reports that an official from SpaceX wanted to investigate the roof of a United Launch Alliance building known as the SMARF. We discuss the rumors, innuendo, known facts, and when there might be some concrete answers that will allow SpaceX to prepare for future launches safely. Looking further ahead, how will this incident affect the larger space industry?

Looking still further ahead, we begin our coverage of the 67th International Astronautical Congress with a breakdown of Elon Musk’s presentation, Making Humans an Interplanetary Species with insights from in the room by Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini. Is Musk’s plan to not only have SpaceX be the first to land on Mars but to move 100 people at a time to the red planet realistic? From the details he revealed (and didn’t) to the way the event was managed, we’ve got plenty to comment on.

An image was inserted here. To view it, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com.

Show recorded 10-10-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Kassy Tamanini

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On September 8 an Atlas V carrying the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission took off from Cape Canaveral and our own Sawyer Rosenstein brings you exclusive sounds and experiences right from the front row. This asteroid sample-collecting mission to Bennu aims to help us understand the origins of life, but this trip to the Kennedy Space Center also featured a look at the future – particularly technologies for in-situ resource collection and usage, recycling of all garbage generated in space, and otherwise enable long-distance human space travel and colonization. In addition, we have an early response to the NASA Office of the Inspector General report discussed in episode 808 (spoiler alert: it’s all about the money). While on the Cape, Sawyer also got a chance to check out LC-40, the scene of the recent SpaceX fast fire, and it’s not pretty. However, that’s apparently not slowing down Musk’s push toward Mars, nor ours. 

Scientists studying the features of Mars have published a paper radically changing the dates of when Mars had its most recent flowing waters, while another set studying rocks here on our own planet suspect that Marsquakes might be releasing bits of hydrogen into the Martian ground as they do here, which could have enormous implications for the red planet. Speaking of Musk, expectations for his highly-anticipated talk at the International Astronautical Congress next week in Guadalajara are just about all the space world is talking about already, and Kat Robison and Kassy Tamanini will be there to bring it to you. However, they’re hardly going just for that, both panelists will be presenting their own work at IAC and give us a preview of what they’ll be talking about. Watch our social media over the next week to hear about it all first, and of course, come back for the next episode of Talking Space for full coverage (after you’ve devoured this one, of course).

An image gallery was inserted here. To view it in its entirety, visit http://talkingspaceonline.com.

Show recorded 09-19-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Kassy Tamanini

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The Kepler Spacecraft ran into trouble last Friday but thanks to heroic effort by the team at  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory,  Kepler’s search for Exoplanets can resume. We discuss the SpaceX Dragon Cargo Resupply Mission 8  and it’s cargo specifically the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to be attached to the International Space Station.  SpaceX also proved at least part of their business model by landing the first stage of their Falcon 9 booster on a drone ship. We discuss the implications. At the  32nd Space SymposiumUnited Launch Alliance and Bigelow Aerospace announced a partnership to loft Bigelow’s B330 expandable modules in 2020, thus creating a new independent space station separate from the ISS without NASA. The team looks at this groundbreaking deal. ULA was also making news this week at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), presenting it’s blueprint for a cis-lunar economy once more independent of NASA. All of this looks at space not just a place for exploration but economic opportunity, the team discusses and explores what a future could look like. 

In the second half of the show, the team opens up part one of it’s NEAF roundup with David Shoemaker  of the Advanced LIGO Project  and Hans Koeningsmann of SpaceX  The second half of our NEAF roundup will be coming up in Episode 806.

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panel Members: Kassy Tamanini & Gene Mikulka

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A new episode and a new crew make their way to the international space station, we highlight the members of Expedition 47 and Astronaut Jeff Williams who will assume command of the station under Expedition 48, and break the US endurance record for time in space during this increment. Only weeks after they have wrapped up the OA4 mission, OrbitalATK is is poised to launch the Cygnus cargo craft the SS Rick Husband  to the ISS. We profile one of its experiments the Spacecraft Fire Experiment or SAFFIRE which will study how fires develop and spread in a confined space.

Could the US establish its own lunar base by 2022? NASA Ames Astrobiologist Chris McKay seems to think so, and do it for $10 Billion, about the price of a US Aircraft Carrier. The base according to Dr. McKay’s would be established under the McMurdo Antarctic base model, and could be set up rather quickly. Dr. McKay’s paper was first published in the New Space Journal and in light of ESA’s Lunar Village concept we discuss the merits of both ESA’s and Dr. McKay’s vision.

Host: Gene Mikulka
Panel Members: Kat Robison & Kassy Tamanini

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Come along with the Talking Space Team  to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as we bring to you the sights and sounds leading up to the return to flight of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Cargo spacecraft (named after pioneering Astronaut  Donald K. Slayton) and the resumption of ISS logistics delivery missions from US Soil.  In this special expanded show, we discuss the mission , designated OA4, the  Cygnus itself and just why we are launching from Florida and not the usual home port for Cygnus of Wallops Island, Virginia. Also why we are flying on United Launch Alliance’s AtlasV and not OrbitalATK's Antares booster. With wind measurements playing a huge factor in this launch (wind delayed in the launch three times) Mark Ratterman takes us on a tour of a key instrument, NASA’s Doppler Radar Wind Profiler. Once fully commissioned the system will  make sure the “highway to space” is safe for launch vehicles leaving KSC.  We spend some time with Mr. Frank DeMauro, OrbitalATK’s Vice President of Human Spaceflight Systems to discuss his career, his role in supporting this return to flight mission, and what the future holds for the Cygnus spacecraft.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Space Exploration Technologies (Space X) and their future return to flight plans, we discuss. We also look at the company’s progress with reimagining historic Launch Complex 39-A.  We also make commentary as to why we think their message last week surrounding their future launch plans became somewhat muddled.

In a future show, we will profile progress being made by United Launch Alliance at LaunchComplex 41 to support human missions. We’ll also examine Boeing’s efforts to get the former Orbiter Processing Facility 3 now known as the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility ready to fabricate the CST-100 Starliner , and NASA’s Launch Equipment Testing Facility , making sure that connections on the new Mobile Launcher will support the Space Launch System and Orion.

Talking Space wishes to thank NASA’s George Diller and OrbitalATK’s Frank DeMauro for their time with us.

For additional photographs/images go to our Team Blog page

Show recorded 12-07-2015

Host this week: Sawyer Rosenstein

Commentators: Mark Ratterman & Gene Mikulka

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In this special edition, the Talking Space Team puts the  66th Annual International Astronautical Congress which took place in Jerusalem, Israel between October 12th and 16th into focus. Our first stop is a paper presented by our own Kat Robison on the issues surrounding scientists communicating the importance and relevance of their own research to the public.  

The theme for IAC 2015 this year was "Space: The Gateway for Mankind's Future" and we review the various gateways starting to open though the International Space Station, leveraging cis-lunar space, and finally humanity declaring "Earth independence" setting sail for Mars. The episode includes commentary from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and new European Space Agency Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner. On various concepts including analysis of NASA's Journey to Mars outline and ESA's vision for a permanent research outpost on the lunar surface

Commercial ventures were also a topic at IAC 2015 and the team examines a new launch services company, Bloostar with an interesting approach to placing 100 kg (220 lbs) payloads into orbit. 

We end our visit to Jerusalem with an interview Kat conducted with NASA astronaut Suni Williams who was selected to fly one of the first Commercial Crew missions to the International Space Station. 

Talking Space congratulates Kat Robison on her presentation at IAC 2015 and thanks both Kat and Kassy Tamanini for their work in preparing this episode.  

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 There's a new "Ironman" in space flight: Current Space Station commander,  astronaut Scott Kelly , broke the US space endurance record recently and is gearing up for two upcoming US spacewalks on October 28th and November 6.  


We open the strange case of star KIC8462852 some 1480 light years away in the constellation Cygnus the Swan that's is behaving in a weird manner. The conclusion: Aliens? You be the judge. A swan of a different feather: the  Cygnus, cargo space craft built  by OrbitalATK arrived at the Kennedy Space Center  in preparation of the OA-4 mission and its return to flight. We also discuss return to flight efforts by SpaceX and Virgin Galactic  and examine the implications surrounding NASA's Venture Class CubeSat launch contracts recently announced.  


Mark Ratterman sat down with former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott to discuss her start in aviation and Kat Robison gives us a sneak peak at her experiences at the International Astronautical Conference  held in Jerusalem, Israel. 


Finally we celebrate the life of  a legendary figure in spaceflight who's contributions still reverberate though the years even today: NASA's George Mueller who we lost on 12 October. 


Presenters this week: Kassy Tamanini & Gene Mikulka

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So you want to be a Martian? On October 1st  NASA  held an event at the Kennedy Space Center to explain more about the agency's push to send the first humans to Mars and our own Mark Ratterman was there and provides insights. We highlight Two Deserts, One Sky a  project by Danielle Adams a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, and briefly discuss  new solar power technology.   United Launch Alliance (ULA) puts 100 successful  launches in the books sending Mexico's Morelos-3 communications satellite into orbit on into orbit on October 2nd. However as the company looks toward Launch 101, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing heads into uncharted territory and uncertain waters as a launch services provider. The team discusses.the challenges that lay ahead for the firm.  


On September 28 NASA announced the confirmation that brine water has at certain times, been collecting on the surface of Mars.  The initial report made on 4 August 2011 (which we discussed   on Episode 334 )  was confirmed with a NASA press conference  and the team examines the announcement itself, the reaction to the announcement  in some circles, and   the implications not only for NASA's planned human Mars exploration efforts, but for the future of human solar system exploration going forward.  


Host this week: Sawyer Rosenstein, 

Panel members:  Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, Kassy Tamanini (CraftLass) & Gene Mikulka

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