Archive for the 'United Launch Alliance' 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

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This week we’re (mostly) back to our regular programming, kicking off with two of our favorite subjects – the launches and landings of International Space Station crews, and it’s a busy season of shift changes via Kazakhstan. Since our last regular episode, we saw the conclusions of Expeditions 48 and 49 with some beautiful landings and the beginning of Expedition 50, with an additional 3 crewmembers scheduled to launch next week. Peggy Whitson, legendary astronaut, commander, and current holder of the record for spaceflight time for women, will not only add another long-duration mission to her impressive list of accomplishments, but will resume command for Expedition 51.

In other launch news, China’s Long March 5 joined the list of successfully-launched heavy lift vehicles last week while Worldview 4’s Atlas 5 launch issues spread across the country to affect GOES-R. It’s not all bad news for United Launch Alliance and their workhorse rocket, though, as Orbital ATK announced they will use it to launch another Cygnus on an ISS cargo mission. This time, rather than using it as a backup, it is for the additional rocket power enabling Orbital ATK pack a bit more cargo into Cygnus. Meanwhile, their competition, SpaceX, is narrowing down their investigation of the anomaly that took out the AMOS-6 mission, and is still planning to return to flight this year.

Moving from launches to space itself, we turn to NASA Goddard for some celebration and investigation. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) set yet another world record, this time for using GPS at the highest altitude. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Noah Petro, also at NASA Goddard, about his background in lunar geology and the upcoming supermoon. Be sure to check out this cool visual! Finally, we close out this episode with a discussion of the successful failure of the ESA’s Schiaparelli lander.

Show recorded 11-07-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Kat Robison and 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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This episode takes off with the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying the second pair of satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP). Looking ahead to the company’s next launch for the NASA mission OSIRIS-REX and even further to the test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, we also discuss their not-quite-as-high-tech but welcome efforts to upgrade the company’s launch stream for the public. Continuing with the return of crewed spaceflight to American shores, we take a look at the results of the RS-25 engine firing test for NASA’s Space Launch System and upcoming tests for the program intended to take us to Mars. SpaceX’ launch of the JCSAT satellites rounds out a very busy August for the space industry before the month has even concluded.

At the other end of the launch process, spacewalkers Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins successfully installed the first International Docking Adapter on the ISS to enable docking of a variety of spacecraft, including the upcoming commercial crew vehicles.

As commercial access to the ISS increases there is an idea of extending the life of the station by selling it off when the space agencies involved end their cooperative agreements to keep the orbiting lab afloat. Is this feasible? Are there other options for using the station beyond the current plans and what would it take to make them happen? What is the future of not just the ISS but laboratories in orbit?

In the even nearer future, Russia has announced their plans to reduce the amount of cosmonauts on station just after news broke of plans to invest in researching a trip to the moon. Again, is this feasible? We discuss the relationship between dreaming and pragmatism when it comes to space exploration, particularly in the two premier spacefaring nations.

After all this speculation on the future of space exploration, we take a look back at the days when America was dreaming and preparing for all of this with the X-15. Mark brings our attention to the White Eagle Aerospace blog with just a little sample of the fascinating histories they are preserving over there. We highly recommend visiting the site, with a warning that you might not be able to pull yourself away for a few hours.

Show Recorded 08-22-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panelists: Gene Mikulka, Mark Ratterman, Kat Robison, and Kassy Tamanini
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On our own return to flight episode, we discuss several upcoming events ; NASA’s Osiris Rex, a sample return mission to the asteroid Bennu is scheduled for launch on 8 September 2016. The team looks at the mission objectives and the unique configuration of the United Launch Alliance (ULA)  AtlasV carrying the spacecraft. SpaceX too is making news with two upcoming commercial launches out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. OrbitalATK is also returning it’s Antares booster to flight next month launching the Cygnus cargo craft from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops.  We also explore a SpaceNews piece indicating that the USAF awarded two National Reconnaissance Office Launch Contracts for the DeltaIV rocket in 2020 and 2023 with SpaceX mysteriously not even filing a protest.

The NASA Advisory Council met during the final week of July and issued a warning concerning the Commercial Crew Program and the dangers of the program falling behind schedule. It may impact US ISS crew access. We also explore completely the recent Government Accounting Office Report on NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion Exploration Vehicle, criticizing budget estimates and schedule.

Don’t forget about the Upcoming Pleiades Meteor Shower, peaking on August 11th and 12th If you are inclined, take a look at a Kickstarter project  to help restore the observatory at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona  where Clyde Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet Pluto.

Show Recorded 08-08-2016

Host: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panel Members: Gene Mikulka and Mark Ratterman
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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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This Past week, The Expedition 45 Crew on board the International Space Station had to contend with a bit of a power wrinkle that may require a spacewalk next year to repair. They also observed a moment of silence (as do we) for those lost in the Paris Terrorist Attacks. Preparations continue for the Cygnus OA4 Cargo craft at the same time, NASA further delays the announcing the winners of the second round of Commercial Resupply contracts.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden continues to be adamant that NASA will not take a lead role in Europe’s “lunar village”. Does that leave the door open for Federal Aviation Administration? What happened to the Martian atmosphere, NASA’s MAVEN in orbit around Mars has found the answer. The Martian Moon, Phobos may become rubble, and Virgin Galactic hires its first woman pilot, Kelly Latimer..

Show recorded 11-16-2015

Host this week: Sawyer Rosenstein

Panel Members: Mark Ratterman, Kassy Tamanini & Gene Mikulka

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