Sunday, July 9, 2017

Full Moon Tonight, Sunday, July 9, 2017

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- There will be a Full Moon tonight on Sunday, July 9, 2017. Sunday's full moon will have a 99.9% illumination.

Nighwatchers will be able to see tonight's Full Moon beginning with a moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean on Florida's east coast around 8:48 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (with a few minutes deviation depending on your exact location.)  The moonset will occur around 7:48 a.m. on the following morning of Monday, July 10, 2017.

For those planning a stroll along the beach to watch the Full Moon, the Full Moon brings along with it a 3'6" high tide that will occur around 9:03 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, with a few minutes of variation depending on your exact location.

Why is a Full Moon in July called a Thunder Moon or Buck Moon?

These moon names are associated with seasonal occurrences that happen in July.  Male deer, known as bucks, begin to sprout their antlers which is why it is called a Buck Moon.  Thunder Moon gets its name from the summer thunderstorms that happen in July.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence To Tour Kennedy Space Center

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida - Vice President Mike Pence will arrive in Air Force Two on the former space shuttle landing strip at NASA's Kennedy Space Center around noon on Thursday.

The vice president, who also serves as the chairman of the National Space Council revived by President Donald Trump, will tour Kennedy Space Center to learn more about the center’s work as a multi-user spaceport for commercial and government clients.

Pence will also see the agency’s progress toward launching astronauts from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling past the moon, and eventually on to Mars and beyond with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

After the tour, Pence will make a speech to space workers that is scheduled to take place around 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The speech will be broadcast live online.

Photo and video credit: White House

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WATCH LIVE: SpaceX To Launch Falcon 9 Rocket On July 5, 2017

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - SpaceX is set to launch its third payload mission aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in less than two weeks.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Intelsat 35e communication satellite is scheduled to liftoff at 7:38 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

An attempted landing at sea or on land will not be made during this mission.

Launch Weather 90% 'GO'

According to the latest forecast from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 90% chance of favorable weather for the launch. The primary concern is cumulus clouds.


The Intelsat 35e satellite will deliver high performance communication services to parts of the Caribbean, Europe and Africa where disruptive weather patterns necessitate use of the highly reliable C-band spectrum.

If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the Intelsat 35e satellite to a geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour after liftoff.


Friday, June 23, 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Of BulgariaSat-1 From Cape Canaveral June 23, 2017

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The launch of a re-used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a BulgariaSat-1 satellite is scheduled to liftoff at 2:10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, June 23, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window is open for two hours.

Second Launch Of Reused Falcon 9

This will be SpaceX's second launch of a reused first stage rocket. This Falcon 9 rocket was previously launched with an Iridium NEXT Constellation satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in January 2017. The first stage was then shipped to MacGregor, Texas to undergo refurbishment and testing before being sent to Florida.

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.


BulgariaSat-1 is a communications satellite that will be located over Bulgaria in a geostationary orbital position and will provide television and data communications services to homes in that region of eastern Europe.

Weather 90% 'GO' for Launch

According to the latest forecast by the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 90% chance of acceptable weather conditions for Friday's launch. The primary weather concerns are cumulus clouds.

Watch SpaceX Rocket Launch Live Online

Photo and video credit: SpaceX

Sunday, June 11, 2017

NASA Unveils Six-Wheeled Mars Concept Rover

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida - It looks like something out of this world, but that’s exactly where it would work. A futuristic Mars rover concept vehicle resembling a Bat Mobile was recently unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The builders of the scientifically-themed Mars rover concept vehicle, Parker Brothers Concepts of Port Canaveral, Florida, incorporated input into its design from NASA subject matter experts. Construction of the Mars rover was commissioned by the Kennedy visitor complex without use of taxpayer dollars.

The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by the Global Positioning System. The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the Red Planet.

Following several weeks on display at Kennedy’s visitor complex, the Mars rover concept vehicle will be displayed at several locations. From July through August, it will be displayed at several locations during a tour along the East Coast.

Article source: NASA / Bob Granath
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA Finds Evidence of Diverse Environments in Curiosity Samples

NASA scientists have found a wide diversity of minerals in the initial samples of rocks collected by the Curiosity rover in the lowermost layers of Mount Sharp on Mars, suggesting that conditions changed in the water environments on the planet over time.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014. Layers of rocks at the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes around 3.5 billion years ago. Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain's lowermost layers have variations in minerals that suggest changes in the area have occurred.

In a paper published recently in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston report on the first four samples collected from the lower layers of Mount Sharp.

"We went to Gale Crater to investigate these lower layers of Mount Sharp that have these minerals that precipitated from water and suggest different environments," said Elizabeth Rampe, the first author of the study and a NASA exploration mission scientist at Johnson. "These layers were deposited about 3.5 billion years ago, coinciding with a time on Earth when life was beginning to take hold. We think early Mars may have been similar to early Earth, and so these environments might have been habitable."

The minerals found in the four samples drilled near the base of Mount Sharp suggest several different environments were present in ancient Gale Crater. There is evidence for waters with different pH and variably oxidizing conditions. The minerals also show that there were multiple source regions for the rocks in "Pahrump Hills" and "Marias Pass."

The paper primarily reports on three samples from the Pahrump Hills region. This is an outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp that contains sedimentary rocks scientists believe formed in the presence of water. The other sample, called "Buckskin," was reported last year, but those data are incorporated into the paper.

Studying such rock layers can yield information about Mars' past habitability, and determining minerals found in the layers of sedimentary rock yields much data about the environment in which they formed. Data collected at Mount Sharp with the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument on Curiosity showed a wide diversity of minerals.

At the base are minerals from a primitive magma source; they are rich in iron and magnesium, similar to basalts in Hawaii. Moving higher in the section, scientists saw more silica-rich minerals. In the "Telegraph Peak" sample, scientists found minerals similar to quartz. In the "Buckskin" sample, scientists found tridymite. Tridymite is found on Earth, for example, in rocks that formed from partial melting of Earth's crust or in the continental crust -- a strange finding because Mars never had plate tectonics.

In the "Confidence Hills" and "Mojave 2" samples, scientists found clay minerals, which generally form in the presence of liquid water with a near-neutral pH, and therefore could be good indicators of past environments that were conducive to life. The other mineral discovered here was jarosite, a salt that forms in acidic solutions. The jarosite finding indicates that there were acidic fluids at some point in time in this region.

There are different iron-oxide minerals in the samples as well. Hematite was found near the base; only magnetite was found at the top. Hematite contains oxidized iron, whereas magnetite contains both oxidized and reduced forms of iron. The type of iron-oxide mineral present may tell scientists about the oxidation potential of the ancient waters.

The authors discuss two hypotheses to explain this mineralogical diversity. The lake waters themselves at the base were oxidizing, so either there was more oxygen in the atmosphere or other factors encouraged oxidation. Another hypothesis -- the one put forward in the paper -- is that later-stage fluids arose. After the rock sediments were deposited, some acidic, oxidizing groundwater moved into the area, leading to precipitation of the jarosite and hematite. In this scenario, the environmental conditions present in the lake and in later groundwater were quite different, but both offered liquid water and a chemical diversity that could have been exploited by microbial life.

"We have all this evidence that Mars was once really wet but now is dry and cold," Rampe said. "Today, much of the water is locked up in the poles and in the ground at high latitudes as ice. We think that the rocks Curiosity has studied reveal ancient environmental changes that occurred as Mars started to lose its atmosphere and water was lost to space."

Article source and image credit: NASA

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Strawberry Full Moon On June 9, 2017

Strawberry' Full Moon Tonight During Summer Solstice 2016

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- There will be a Strawberry Full Moon on Friday, June 9, 2017.

The 2017 Strawberry Moon begins with a moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean on Florida's east coast around 8:27 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (with plus or minus a few minutes depending on your exact location along Florida's east coast). 

The moon will be at its fullest (99.7% full) the following morning at 1:08 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, June 10, 2017.  The Strawberry Moon will set at 7:21 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday. 

Why is this Full Moon called a Strawberry Moon?

According to Native American folklore, a full moon in June is called a Strawberry Moon because the short season for harvesting strawberries comes during that summer month. Other names for the first full moon is June are Rose Moon and Flower Moon.

Are Strawberry Moons red or pink in color?

Sometimes. But Strawberry Moons are not necessarily red or pink in color just because they occur in June.  Like any full moon, the moon can appear reddish-pink which is caused by atmospheric conditions on Earth or a partial lunar eclipse. Strawberry Moons can also appear brown-red in color during a total lunar eclipse.  More than likely, the Full Moon on June 9, 2017 will appear the usual pearly-gray to most locations on Earth. 

Image credit: NASA (red added by Brevard Times)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Air Force's Secretive X-37B To Launch Aboard SpaceX Falcon 9

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B 'mini-shuttle' will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in August, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as a major win in the aerospace defense industry for SpaceX because all prior launches of X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) were aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket.

The August 2017 launch will be the fifth mission (OTV-5) of the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane.

In 2014, Boeing began consolidation of its X-37B operations at Kennedy Space Center by converting the former space shuttle facility, OPF-1, to a facility that would enable the U.S. Air Force to land, recover, refurbish, and re-launch the reusable unmanned space plane.

Prior to consolidation, the 29-foot-long X-37B had launched from both Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida - but the space plane only landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The fourth mission (OTV-4) was the first X-37B to land at Kennedy Space Center on May 7, 2017.

Friday, June 2, 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Date Of CRS-11 Rescheduled For Saturday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station has been rescheduled to liftoff at 5:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, June 3, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida following a scrubbed launch due to lightning on Thursday.

First Reuse Of A Dragon Capsule

For the first time ever, SpaceX will launch a reused Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. The capsule was previously launched in September 2014 for the CRS-4 mission.

Attempted Ground Landing, Sonic Boom

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.

Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

CRS-11 Payload

The Dragon capsule will carry food and supplies to the crew aboard the to the International Space Station, as well as the following scientific equipment: Neuron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) instrument, Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), and Multiple User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES).

Weather 70% 'GO' for Launch

According to the latest forecast by the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of acceptable weather conditions for Saturday's launch. The primary weather concerns are anvil clouds, cumulus clouds, and flight through precipitation

Photo credit: SpaceX

Sunday, May 28, 2017

SpaceX Static Fire Test Sparks Wild Fire

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida - A static fire test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket engine ahead of its launch to the International Space Station on June 1st sparked a wildfire at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday.

The fire started near launch pad 39-A and has been dubbed the Red Ribbon Fire by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division which has jurisdiction over firefighting on the federal lands that surround Kennedy Space Center. So far, the blaze has spread to two acres.

All of Central Florida has been plagued by drought-like conditions for the last three months. Brevard County, which encompasses Kennedy Space Center, has been under a burn ban. However, Kennedy Space Center is on federal property and is exempt from the local burn ban.