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Monthly archives "November"

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ISS-RapidScat decommissioned after two years of service

Artist’s representation of the ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center

Artist’s representation of the ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center

Two years may only be half of a typical course of study at a university, but for NASA’s pioneering International Space Station Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat) science instrument, it was a lifetime.

Taking advantage of the orbital “high ground” offered by the ISS, ISS-RapidScat provided near real-time data for forecasters and researchers in an effort to gain a better understanding of ocean winds and how they impact regional weather patterns. Indeed, the instrument’s vantage point on the ISS contributed useful information to domestic and foreign entities alike.

Besides supplying unique wind data to agencies like the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the U.S. Navy, ISS-RapidScat also provided information to European and Indian weather organizations.

“As a first-of-its-kind mission, ISS-RapidScat proved successful in providing researchers and forecasters with a low-cost eye on winds over remote areas of Earth’s oceans,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in a release from the agency. “The data from ISS-RapidScat will help researchers contribute to an improved understanding of fundamental weather and climate processes, such as how tropical weather systems form and evolve.”

Read more in my full piece at SpaceFlight Insider

COMMENTARY: I finally saw a launch…and it was incredible

A ULA Atlas V 541 lifts off, carrying the next-generation GOES-R weather satellite. Credit: Curt Godwin

A ULA Atlas V 541 lifts off, carrying the next-generation GOES-R weather satellite. Credit: Curt Godwin

I have seen a huge 5-segment solid rocket booster perform a full duration burn in the desert of Utah at Orbital ATK’s facility. Pro tip: if NASA tells you to not look at the flame, then do NOT look at the flame.

I’ve watched the incredible RS-25 engine static fired in a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Twice.

I’ve been on top – ON TOP! – of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC)… within touching distance of a satellite at Ball Aerospace in Boulder… in United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Denver Operations Support Center (DOSC) and in their Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). These are not easy places to access.

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GOES-R successfully launched on ULA Atlas V

The Atlas V 541 carrying GOES-R lifts off at 6:42pm EST. Credit: Curt Godwin

The Atlas V 541 carrying GOES-R lifts off at 6:42pm EST. Credit: Curt Godwin

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The launch window extended for an hour, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) needed every minute of it. After resolving multiple issues, the Atlas V rocketed into the black on a mission to send the most advanced weather satellite, GOES-R, into geostationary orbit.

The first issue that cropped up turned out to be a false-positive indicator on the launch vehicle. ULA’s frustrations didn’t end there, however. The Eastern Range also encountered an issue, which delayed the liftoff time to the very end of the window. Finally, under nearly perfect conditions, the Atlas V 541 with GOES-R lifted off at 6:42 p.m. EST (23:42 GMT) from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The workhorse of ULAs stable of launch vehicles, the Atlas V for this mission was set up in its 541 configuration: this includes a 5-meter payload fairing, four supplemental solid rocket boosters, and a single-engined Centaur stage.

It was the fourth launch of this configuration of the Atlas V, with the most notable payload being the Mars Science Laboratory – otherwise known as Curiosity – which took to the skies in November 2011.

Much more in my full piece at SpaceFlight Insider

Weather appears favorable for launch of GOES-R on ULA Atlas V

The ULA Atlas V carrying GOES-R makes its way to the pad. Credit: Curt Godwin

The ULA Atlas V carrying GOES-R makes its way to the pad. Credit: Curt Godwin

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After being subjected to delays caused by weather and troublesome hardware, the next-generation GOES-R weather satellite is soon to liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), with a scheduled launch date of Saturday, November 19, 2016.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series (GOES-R) spacecraft, a collaborative project between NOAA and NASA, and based on the Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite model, will augment the current stable of three active GOES satellites and will monitor weather in the Western Hemisphere. GOES-R will be given the operational designation of GOES 16 once it reaches its orbital slot, approximately 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above the equator.

GOES-R represents the fourth generation of weather monitoring satellites operated by NOAA and will eventually be joined by three more of its family, culminating with the projected launch of GOES-U in 2024.

Weather forecasters and climate scientists have been eagerly awaiting the launch of GOES-R, which promises to greatly increase the amount of weather data that can be collected from orbit. In fact, GOES-R will provide nearly real-time weather data, with a fidelity and speed unmatched by the current generation of GOES satellites.

Read much more in my full piece at SpaceFlight Insider

Coming soon to a small screen near you: ME!

Logo for the GOES-R mission. Credit: NOAA/NASA

Logo for the GOES-R mission. Credit: NOAA/NASA

I’ve been told that I have a face for radio, and a voice pleasing to the hard-of-hearing…and in just a few days, you lucky space fans will have the opportunity to witness the train wreck that is me in front of a camera.

That’s right – I’ll be hosting SpaceFlight Insider’s LIVE coverage of the GOES-R launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

Though I’ve done some live broadcasts before, this will be the first time that an established brand’s reputation is in my hands. Lord help them.

Seriously, though, I’m honored SFI is trusting me with broadcast, and I’m certain it’ll be an excellent show. Provided there’s no scrub or delay, this will be my first in-person launch, so expect a bit of excitement. I’ll post more information as it becomes available.

United Launch Alliance delays two missions due to issues with Atlas V

File photo of a ULA Atlas V 401 on the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Curt Godwin

File photo of a ULA Atlas V 401 on the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Curt Godwin

Coming only 24 hours after United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) announcement on November 2, 2016, of a one week delay of the WorldView-4 satellite launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the company tweeted that the launch of the GOES-R satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will also be delayed:

Noting that the cause of the delay for both missions is related to minor Atlas V issues discovered during launch preparations, ULA is taking the pragmatic approach and holding the launches until the issues are resolved. Though WorldView-4 is officially only delayed by a week, it’s nearly certain ULA will delay it further should a solution not be quickly reached.

The WorldView-4 launch has seen several delays, both from equipment issues and from Mother Nature. GOES-R has also been similarly-afflicted. Hurricane Matthew delayed the weather satellite’s launch, initially scheduled for November 4, 2016, then rescheduled for November 16, and now awaiting a resolution for this latest issue before a new date can be set.

Considering both the WorldView-4 and the GOES-R missions are launching on different variants of the stalwart Atlas V — the 401 and 541, respectively — it would appear that whatever gremlin is haunting these two launches is in the core part of the vehicle.

More updates as they become available.