SEARCH

Entries in Launch (20)

Tuesday
Dec112012

Air Force’s Secret Space Plane Back in Orbit

US Air Force(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned “mini-space shuttle,” has launched into orbit for a third time and once again what it actually does in space remains a big mystery.

One of the few things known about the space plane’s classified missions is that it can stay in orbit for extended periods of time: On its previous mission, a sister craft stayed in orbit for 469 days.

The unmanned space plane lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.,  Tuesday at 1:03 p.m. atop an Atlas V rocket.   The curious could watch the launch on a live webcast that was allowed to broadcast for only 17 minutes into the mission as the space plane began its classified mission.

Officially known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, the reusable aircraft is often referred to as a mini-space shuttle, because it looks like a smaller version of  NASA’s now-retired space shuttles.  Measuring 29 feet in length and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the X-37B is a quarter the size of the shuttles and could easily fit into two long car parking spaces.

Like the space shuttle, the X-37B lands on runways, though it does so without pilots at the helm.

The launch Tuesday marked the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet that a spacecraft has gone into space more than once.

Both X-37Bs in the Air Force’s inventory have been to space, but the one launched Tuesday was the original craft launched into space in April 2010 that remained in orbit for 224 days.

The space plane’s orbits are often tracked by space enthusiasts who speculate as to what it might be doing on its classified missions. In the lead-up to the first launch, Air Force officials said the craft offered a platform for testing new technologies in space.

When the X-37B will return to Earth is an open guess, the robotic vehicle is designed to stay in orbit for at least 270 days.

The robotic space planes have previously landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base and it may land there again, though there has been speculation the Air Force might want to have it land at the runways built for the NASA shuttles at the Kennedy Space Center.

But when it will return to Earth remains an open question.  If previous missions are any indicator it could be in space for quite a long time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep232011

Weather Satellite Cost Taxpayers $6B, Has Yet to Launch

An artist's rendering of NOAA's existing Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (NOAA)(WASHINGTON) -- While most Americans spent the week fearing a rogue satellite falling out of the sky, perhaps they should have spent a little more time considering the $6 billion the U.S. government spent on satellites that have yet to get off the ground.

After 17 years, more than $6 billion in taxpayer money and three complete project overhauls, a program that was originally intended to launch six weather-tracking satellites before 2018 has yet to put the first test satellite into orbit.

“This is the poster child of a runaway government program that is over-promised, over-budget and, honestly, under-performed,” Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Andy Harris, R- Md., said Friday at a House hearing on the program.

The Joint Polar Satellite System run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will now create two satellites, one that’s set to launch Oct. 25 and another that won’t hit the skies until 2017. By that time the total price tag is expected to balloon to more than $17 billion.

David A. Powner, the director of Information Technology Management Issues at the Government Accountability Office, said at least some of the blame should fall on Congress, which has failed to pass a year-long budget bill since 1997. Because Congress has appropriated funds in short spurts through continuing resolutions, the project has not been able to work off of a steady baseline of funding, he said.

“One of most difficult things for a project manager is uncertainty,” Powner said. “The more re-plannings we have to do, the more uncertainty there is, the more difficult it is for us to accomplish our goals.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul082011

Atlantis Fuels Up Despite Unfavorable Weather for Shuttle Launch

NASA/Troy Cryder UPDATE: Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday to begin the final mission for NASA's space shuttle program.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Atlantis began fueling up with over 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen early Friday morning in anticipation of its final launch -- the last mission for NASA's space shuttle program.

The space shuttle is scheduled for lift-off at 11:26 a.m. ET.  However, inclement weather could push the launch back to either Saturday or Sunday.  According to NASA, Friday's forecast shows a 30 percent chance of favorable weather.

Up to one million spectators are estimated to be on hand when Atlantis' four-man crew -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- takes off for a 12-day mission to the International Space Station from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.  The astronauts will carry critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul052011

Final Countdown Begins for Space Shuttle Atlantis' Launch

NASA/Kim ShiflettUPDATE: Space shuttle Atlantis' scheduled July 8 launch date runs the risk of being postponed due to inclement weather.

"Right now we are going with a 60 percent chance of [Kennedy Space Center] weather prohibiting launch due to the potential for showers and isolated thunderstorms in the area," says Mission Weather Officer Kathy Winters.

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- After taking the Fourth of July holiday weekend off, launch pad engineers are back at work in Florida as the final countdown for NASA's last space shuttle mission begins Tuesday.

On Monday, the four-man crew who will board space shuttle Atlantis -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- arrived at Kennedy Space Center, where they will continue training and spend some time with their families before blasting off into space on Friday.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival, Commander Ferguson said, "I think I speak for the whole crew in that we are delighted to be here after a very arduous nine-month training flow and we're thrilled to finally be here in Florida for launch week."

Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for lift-off on July 8 at 11:26 a.m.  As part of their 12-day mission to the International Space Station, Ferguson and his fellow astronauts will carry critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

Local officials expect a million people will line area roads to see the final flight of the space shuttle program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun292011

Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch Date Confirmed

NASA/Kim Shiflett(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Atlantis was given the green light Tuesday to take flight next month in what would mark the space shuttle program's final mission.

After conducting the final Flight Readiness Review, NASA managers confirmed the launch date of July 8 at 11:26 a.m. EDT.

"We had a very thorough review," Bill Gerstenmaier, assistant administrator for space operations, said at a news conference from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.  "This flight is incredibly important.  The cargo that is coming up on this flight is really mandatory for space station."

The four-man crew aboard Atlantis -- Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim -- will embark on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station, carrying critical parts and goods to keep the station supplied for the next year.

"We're really looking forward to achieving this mission, putting the station where it needs to be and finishing strong with the shuttle program here with STS-135," said Mike Moses, space shuttle program launch integration manager.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May162011

Space Shuttle Endeavour Launches for Last Time

NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- As planned, space shuttle Endeavour successfully took off on its final flight Monday morning, with its crew of six astronauts, led by commander Mark Kelly.  The shuttle blasted off at 8:56 a.m. ET.

Half a million people are estimated to have crowded around the Kennedy Space Center to see Endeavour launch on a 16-day flight to the International Space Station.

The astronauts, one by one, began climbing into the shuttle cabin shortly after 5:30 a.m. EDT.  It took them an hour to strap in, check communications lines and oxygen flow, and close the hatch.  The technicians helping the astronauts get on board noticed a two-inch fleck of tile material that had broken off, but they quickly repaired it with caulk-like material they carry for just such cases.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Kelly's wife, arrived from Houston Sunday morning in a small NASA jet to watch her husband take off.  ABC News was told that the space agency gave her a private place on the roof of the launch control center to watch the liftoff, away from prying eyes.

ABC News has been told that Kelly, as a gesture of love, is taking both their wedding rings on the flight with him.

Once Endeavour reaches the ISS, Kelly and the five other astronauts will install a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer, which could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May162011

Space Shuttle Endeavour Fully Fueled; Moving Closer to Final Launch

NASA(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Space shuttle Endeavour is one step closer to leaving for its mission to the International Space Station after its external tank was loaded with over 500,000 gallons of super-cooled liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen Monday morning, just hours ahead of its launch.

The six-man crew, headed by Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, have completed their medical exams and are making preparations for the shuttle's final launch at 8:56 a.m.  They will be suiting up close to 5 a.m. and will be briefed on the weather, which forecasters predict as 70 percent favorable for lift-off.

Endeavour's launch will mark the second to last flight for NASA's space shuttle program.  The shuttle's crew will embark on a 16-day mission into space, where they will will install a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer on the ISS.  The instrument could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Rep. Giffords, who was critically wounded during the shootings in Tucson, Arizona in January, is expected to be on hand at the Kennedy Space Center to watch Kelly and the other five astronauts ascend into space.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May142011

NASA: Endeavour Launch to Take Place Monday

RUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour looks to be on track for Monday morning.

NASA announced Saturday that crews were working through countdown milestones with no issues, with Endeavour scheduled for liftoff at 8:56 a.m. on Monday. The weather around launch time also appears to be in favor of the shuttle setting off on its final journey as scheduled, as NASA says forecasts call for a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions around launch time.

Endeavour’s mission crew consists of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

The shuttle's launch has drawn widespread attention as it's commanded by the husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January. Six people were killed and 13, including Giffords, were injured in the shooting.

The 14-day mission into space, when it happens, could yield new clues to the origin of the universe. The shuttle will carry a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer, an instrument that will be installed on the space station. It could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May132011

Countdown Gets Underway for Endeavour's Launch Next Week

BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The countdown to space shuttle Endeavour's projected launch next week kicked off Friday, two weeks after electrical issues halted the shuttle's mission to the International Space Station.

Ready to take another stab at sending Endeavour into orbit, shuttle commander Mark Kelly and his crew returned to the Kennedy Space Center Thursday.

Kelly said "it's great to be back," and praised engineering crews for replacing wiring and an electrical switching box which caused the April 29 lift-off to be canceled.

He added that the shuttle is now "in great condition."

Endeavour's six-man crew is now in quarantine to avoid any illness before Monday's attempted launch.

Kelly's wife, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January, is expected to be on hand when the shuttle takes off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May012011

NASA Postpones Endeavour Shuttle Launch Again

BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- NASA on Sunday postponed the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour for the second time, putting it off until at least the end of the week to replace a switch box in Endeavour's engine compartment.

The six astronauts, including Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, the commander of the mission, traveled back to Houston from Florida.

"Things happen fast. We are now all aboard [a plane] for return to Houston. Be back in a few days. More to follow," Endeavour pilot Gregory Johnson said today on his Twitter account. Johnson and Kelly were to be joined on the Endeavour with spacewalkers Mike Fincke, Drew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, and Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori.

On Friday the space agency pushed back Endeavour's launch because the heater on one of the shuttle's three Auxiliary Power Units -- devices that power the shuttle's speed brakes, elevons and landing gear -- malfunctioned as the astronauts were getting ready to board for liftoff.

The second delay is a disappointment for thousands of spectators who flooded the Florida Space Coast, hoping to catch a glimpse of Endeavour's last launch. Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, flew from rehab in Houston to see her husband go on what will probably be his last chance to travel in space.

"Bummed about the scrub!! But important to make sure everything on shuttle is working properly," Giffords' staff said via Twitter on Friday.

Giffords was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January that left six people dead and 13, including Giffords, injured.

The 14-day mission into space, when it happens, will be the last for the space shuttle Endeavour, and could yield new clues to the origin of the universe. The shuttle will carry a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer, an instrument that will be installed on the space station. It could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio