Friday, September 16, 2016

2016 Harvest Moon Tonight Is A Supermoon


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- There will be a Full Moon tonight, Friday, September 16, 2016. But not just any Full Moon. This Full Moon is a Harvest Moon that also happens to be a Supermoon.

What Time Is The September 2016 Harvest Moon?

On the Florida's east coast, the Harvest Moon will rise over the Atlantic Ocean around 7:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 16 and set the following morning just before 8 a.m., with some slight time variation (+/- 20 minutes) depending on the viewer's exact location.  

When is the best time to watch the Supermoon?

Low hanging moons near the horizon appear larger to humans.  So, the Supermoon will appear biggest to the naked eye on the U.S east coast during and just after the moonrise.

Why is September's Full  Moon Called a Harvest Moon?

The Harvest Moon gets its name from agriculture.  In the days before electric lights, farmers depended on bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset.  It was the only way they could gather their ripening crops in time for market.  The Full Moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox became "the Harvest Moon."

Usually, the Harvest Moon arrives a few days to weeks before or after the beginning of fall. This year, the Autumn Equinox and changing of the calendar seasons will occur on September 22, 2016. Equinox means "equal night" in Latin, capturing the idea that daytime and nighttime are equal lengths everywhere on the planet.

Image credit: NASA

Thursday, September 8, 2016

WATCH LIVE: Countdown And Rocket Launch Of OSIRIS-REX From Cape Canaveral


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Watch live online the countdown and launch of NASA's  Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft from Florida to an asteroid that will bring a sample of the space rock back to Earth.

The 4,650-pound (2,110-kilogram) fully-fueled spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas V 411 configuration  rocket at 7:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, September 8, 2016, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a two-hour window for each launch opportunity.



According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 90% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Thursday's launch.

After a careful survey of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to characterize the asteroid and locate the most promising sample sites, OSIRIS-REx will collect between 2 and 70 ounces (about 60 to 2,000 grams) of surface material with its robotic arm and return the sample to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023.

Bennu is believed to be one of the oldest asteroids in our solar system. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

Bennu may also harbor organic material from the young solar system. Organic matter is made of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen atoms and is fundamental to terrestrial life. The analysis of any organic material found on Bennu will give scientists an inventory of the materials present at the beginning of the solar system that may have had a role in the origin of life.


Photo and video credit: NASA TV

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Returns First-Ever Images of Jupiter's North Pole

This infrared image gives an unprecedented view of the southern aurora of Jupiter, as captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on August 27, 2016. The planet's southern aurora can hardly be seen from Earth due to our home planet's position in respect to Jupiter's south pole. Juno's unique polar orbit provides the first opportunity to observe this region of the gas-giant planet in detail. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA’s Juno spacecraft has sent back the first-ever images of Jupiter’s north pole, taken during the spacecraft’s first flyby of the planet with its instruments switched on. The images show storm systems and weather activity unlike anything previously seen on any of our solar system’s gas-giant planets.




“First glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 

“It’s bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to -- this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”

One of the most notable findings of these first-ever pictures of Jupiter’s north and south poles is the discovery of a hexagon.

“Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole,” said Bolton. “There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that. The largest planet in our solar system is truly unique. We have 36 more flybys to study just how unique it really is.”

Juno obtained this image on August 27, 2016, about two hours before closest approach to Jupiter, when the spacecraft was 120,000 miles (195,000 kilometers) away. Unlike the equatorial region's familiar structure of belts and zones, the poles are mottled with rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes. Jupiter's poles have not been seen from this perspective since the Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by the planet in 1974. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Juno successfully executed the first of 36 orbital flybys on August 27, 2016 when the spacecraft reached around 2,500 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter’s swirling clouds. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the six-hour transit, from above Jupiter’s north pole to below its south pole, took one-and-a-half days. While analysis of this first data collection is ongoing, some unique discoveries have already made themselves visible.

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida and arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

Weather 80% 'GO' For Launch Of NASA Asteroid Sampling Spacecraft


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Weather is 80% 'GO' for the launch of NASA's  Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to an asteroid that will bring a sample of the space rock back to Earth.

The 4,650-pound (2,110-kilogram) fully-fueled spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V 411 configuration  rocket and arrive at its asteroid target in 2018.








Launch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EDT on Thursday, September 8, 2016, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a two-hour window for each launch opportunity.

According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Thursday's launch.  The primary weather concern for launch is cumulus clouds. If the launch is delayed until Friday or Saturday, weather chances decrease to 70%.

After a careful survey of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to characterize the asteroid and locate the most promising sample sites, OSIRIS-REx will collect between 2 and 70 ounces (about 60 to 2,000 grams) of surface material with its robotic arm and return the sample to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023.

Bennu is believed to be one of the oldest asteroids in our solar system. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

Bennu may also harbor organic material from the young solar system. Organic matter is made of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen atoms and is fundamental to terrestrial life. The analysis of any organic material found on Bennu will give scientists an inventory of the materials present at the beginning of the solar system that may have had a role in the origin of life.

Photo credit: NASA

Thursday, September 1, 2016

VIDEO: SpaceX Rocket Explosion On Launch Pad


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Stunning video shows a SpaceX rocket exploding on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday, September 1, 2016.

The explosion occurred at approximately 9:07 a.m. during fueling of the Falcon 9 rocket for a static fire test at Space Launch Complex 40.


“The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries," SpaceX said in a statement.

“We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause. Additional updates will be provided as they become available.” 

The U.S. Air Force set up roadblocks around Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after the explosion.

However, residents on Florida's Space Coast do not have to worry about any potential harm from the explosion, according to public safety officials.


"There is NO threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad at CCAFS this morning," Brevard County Emergency Management stated.

The 6-ton AMOS-6 satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom), would have been the heaviest satellite that SpaceX launched into Geo Stationary Orbit using the rocket's nine Merlin engines.

The $200 million Amos-6 was intended to significantly expand the variety of communication services provided by Spacecom to the international market from the orbit slot 4° West, including direct satellite home internet services which Eutelstat and Facebook had agreed to cost share.

"Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in 2015. "To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies."

Image and video credit: USLaunchReport.com via YouTube

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tropical Storm May Delay SpaceX Launch Of Facebook Internet Satellite


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Israeli communications satellite that will provide Facebook internet service could be delayed due to Tropical Storm Hermine.

The Amos-6 satellite is scheduled to liftoff  at 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, September 3, 2016, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

However, according to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is only a 40% percent chance overall of acceptable launch weather conditions.


"All eyes remain fixed on Tropical Depression Nine as it strengthens slowly in the Gulf of Mexico. The size, speed, track and intensity of the system will be the driving force of the weather over Central Florida for the next three to four days...," the USAF forecast stated.

"The weather along the Space Coast will deteriorate late Wednesday and through the day on Thursday with widespread rain and isolated thunderstorms. Along with strong winds, these thunderstorms can create isolated tornadoes if associated with outer rain bands .... The main weather concern for launch early Saturday morning is liftoff winds, if the storm is slower than forecast, and thick clouds associated with moisture trailing into the storm."

Payload

The AMOS-6 satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom), weighs 5,500 kilograms and will be placed in Geo Stationary Orbit.  Thales Alenia Space was subcontracted for electric propulsion using the plasma Hall thruster effect.

Amos-6 is intended to significantly expand the variety of communication services provided by Spacecom to the international market from the orbit slot 4° West, and to replace Amos-2 satellite.

The communication payload includes 45 transponders in three frequency bands - Ku, Ka and S, which enable the satellite to provide a variety of communication services, including direct satellite home internet services which Eutelstat and Facebook have agreed to cost share.

"Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in 2015. "To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies."

"As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa."

Attempted Landing On Drone Ship

Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.  But a successful landing after launch may be difficult because the Geo Stationary Transfer Orbit requires the first stage rocket to reach a significantly higher altitude than other recovered missions. This means that Falcon 9's first stage rocket will becoming down faster with less fuel to slow its descent than prior landing attempts.

Photo credit: Eutelsat

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NASA To Launch Spacecraft To Intercept Asteroid, Return Sample To Earth


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - In just three weeks, NASA will launch the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to travel to an asteroid and bring a sample back to Earth.

The 4,650-pound (2,110-kilogram) fully-fueled spacecraft will launch aboard an Atlas V 411 configuration  rocket during a 34-day launch period that begins September 8, and reach its asteroid target in 2018.






Launch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EDT on Thursday, September 8, 2016, from  Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a 120 minute window for each launch opportunity.

After a careful survey of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to characterize the asteroid and locate the most promising sample sites, OSIRIS-REx will collect between 2 and 70 ounces (about 60 to 2,000 grams) of surface material with its robotic arm and return the sample to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023.

Bennu is believed to be one of the oldest asteroids in our solar system. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

Bennu may also harbor organic material from the young solar system. Organic matter is made of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen atoms and is fundamental to terrestrial life. The analysis of any organic material found on Bennu will give scientists an inventory of the materials present at the beginning of the solar system that may have had a role in the origin of life.

Photo credit: NASA

Monday, August 15, 2016

Astronaut Access Arm and White Room Installed At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Weighing about 90,000 pounds and reaching almost 50 feet, the CST-100 Starliner Crew Access Arm and White Room were installed in the Crew Access Tower on Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday morning.






The installation of the Crew Access Arm and White Room by NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) completes the major construction of the first new Crew Access Tower to be constructed on Florida's Space Coast since the Apollo era.  

Crew members will cross the arm and prep in the White Room before climbing through the Starliner’s hatch and getting into place for liftoff on Commercial Crew Program missions carrying astronauts to the International Space Station to conduct research in orbit.

A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

Space Launch Complex 41 is one of the most active launch complexes in Brevard County, Florida, and construction of this tower has taken place between launches, with segments of the structure being built off-site and then assembled at the pad.

Photo credit: NASA

Deep Canyons Filled With Methane Found On Saturn's Moon Titan


NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found deep canyons on Saturn's moon, Titan, that are flooded with liquid methane.

A research paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describes how scientists analyzed Cassini data from a close pass the spacecraft made over Titan in May 2013. During the flyby, Cassini's radar instrument focused on channels that branch out from the large, northern sea Ligeia Mare.






Data from Cassini's observations reveal that a network of channels named Vid Flumina are narrow canyons, generally less than half a mile wide, with slopes steeper than 40 degrees, and measure 790 to 1,870 feet  from top to bottom.

The branching channels appear dark in radar images, much like Titan's methane-rich seas. This suggested to scientists that the channels might also be filled with liquid, but a direct detection had not been made until now.

Key to understanding the nature of the channels was the way Cassini's radar signal reflected off the bottoms of the features. The radar instrument observed a glint, indicating an extremely smooth surface like that observed from Titan's hydrocarbon seas. The timing of the radar echoes, as they bounced off the canyons' edges and floors, provided a direct measure of their depths.

The presence of such deep cuts in the landscape indicates that whatever process created them was active for a long time or eroded down much faster than other areas on Titan’s surface. The researchers' proposed scenarios include uplift of the terrain and changes in sea level, or perhaps both.

"It's likely that a combination of these forces contributed to the formation of the deep canyons, but at present it's not clear to what degree each was involved. What is clear is that any description of Titan's geological evolution needs to be able to explain how the canyons got there," said Valerio Poggiali of the University of Rome, a Cassini radar team associate and lead author of the study.

ABOVE IMAGE: NASA's Cassini spacecraft pinged the surface of Titan with microwaves, finding that some channels are deep, steep-sided canyons filled with liquid hydrocarbons. One such feature is Vid Flumina, the branching network of narrow lines in the upper-left quadrant of the image. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral Set For August 19, 2016


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -  A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium (4,2) configuration rocket carrying two U.S. military space surveillance satellites is scheduled to lift off on Friday, August 19, 2016, between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

Launch Weather 80% 'GO'

According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 80% chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Friday's early morning launch. The primary weather concern for launch is cumulus clouds. 






Mission Payload

The launch mission, dubbed AFSPC-6, will deliver two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites to near-geo­synchronous orbit. 

The twin GSSAP spacecraft, built by Orbital ATK, will support U.S. Strategic Command space surveillance operations and collect space situational awareness data allowing for more accurate tracking and characterization of man-made orbiting objects. 

From a near-geosynchronous orbit, the satellites will have a clear, unobstructed and distinct vantage point for viewing other satellites without the interruption of weather or the atmospheric distortion that can limit ground-based systems. The GSSAP satellites will operate near the geosynchronous belt and will have the capability to perform Rendezvous and Proximity Operations which allows for the space vehicle to maneuver near a resident space object of interest, enabling characterization for anomaly resolution and enhanced awareness, while maintaining flight safety. 

Data from GSSAP will help the U.S. military make timely and accurate orbital predictions, increase U.S. intelligence of the geosynchronous orbit environment, and further enable space flight safety to include satellite collision avoidance. GSSAP satellites will communicate information through the world wide Air Force Satellite Control Network ground stations, then to Schriever Air Force Base, CO where 50th Space Wing satellite operators of the 1st Space Operations Squadron will oversee day-to-day operations.

Image credit: ULA