Vega rocket deploys 53 satellites on successful return to flight mission

Delayed a year by a launch failure, the coronavirus pandemic and a stretch of stiff upper level winds this summer, an Italian-made Vega rocket vaulted into orbit from French Guiana on Wednesday night and deployed 53 small satellites from 13 countries to punctuate a flawless return to flight mission.

The rideshare launch set a record for the most satellites ever flown on a European rocket, and helped validate process changes introduced to resolve the problem on the Vega’s second stage that caused a failure on the launcher’s previous mission.

Photo Optique Video du CSG – JM Guillon

LightSail 2 solar sail spots Hurricane Laura from space as satellites track storm’s path

Lightsail 2 is hardly the only satellite watching the storm: a host of missions run by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are also studying Laura in order to better keep meteorologists and disaster response experts apprised.

Hurricane Laura is currently a Category 3 storm based on its wind speeds and will likely strengthen to a Category 4 storm later today (Aug. 26) before making landfall, according to a forecast from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

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Could a Dragon spacecraft fly humans to the Moon? It’s complicated

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a black-and-white spacecraft raced through the atmosphere, ionizing molecules, and creating a plasma inferno. Amidst this fireball, two astronauts sheltered within the small haven of Dragonship Endeavour, as its carbon-based heat shield crisped and flaked away.

After a few torrid minutes, Endeavour shed most of its orbital velocity. Falling into the lower atmosphere, its parachutes deployed in a careful sequence, and the spacecraft floated down from blue skies into blue seas. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were safe. They were home. For the first time in 4.5 decadesastronauts returned from space and splashed down into the ocean, like the Apollo-era heroes who walked across the Moon.


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Image Credit: Bill Ingalls, NASA

Benchmark to provide propulsion for Spaceflight’s Sherpa-NG

SAN FRANCISCO – Satellite propulsion startup Benchmark Space Systems announced an agreement Aug. 5 to provide non-toxic chemical propulsion for rideshare provider Spaceflight Inc.’s next-generation orbital transfer vehicle, Sherpa-NG.

At the same time, Burlington, Vermont-based Benchmark revealed a permanent licensing partnership with Tesseract Space, a California propulsion startup. Under the terms of the deal, Vermont-based Benchmark will integrate Tesseract’s intellectual property, assets and staff to further its goal of providing non-toxic chemical propulsion for the global small satellite market.

The partnership with Tesseract will help Benchmark offer a broad range of non-toxic propulsion systems for satellites ranging in size from one-unit cubesats to Spaceflight’s Sherpa-NG, Chris Carella, Bechmark executive vice president of business development and strategy, told SpaceNews. “I’m hoping people realize that they can work with one partner and get the right green propulsion solution for every mission,” he added.


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Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Fla.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975 — and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

The success of their test flight, to the International Space Station and back, is a milestone for SpaceX, the first private company to send people to the outpost.


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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance is ‘go’ for launch

NASA’s next Mars rover has been cleared for liftoff.

This morning (July 27), the $2.7 billion Mars 2020 Perseverance rover passed its launch readiness review, the last big hurdle to clear before its planned liftoff Thursday (July 30) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“The launch readiness review is complete, and we are indeed go for launch,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a news conference today.


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The UAE has successfully launched the Arab world’s first Mars mission

(CNN)The United Arab Emirates successfully launched its Mars-bound Hope Probe on Sunday, marking the the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission — and the first of three international missions to the Red Planet this summer.

The Hope Probe took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, after a delay last week due to bad weather. The solid rocket booster successfully separated from the launch vehicle, and the probe has established two-way communication with the ground segment in Dubai.

For those at northerly latitudes, Comet NEOWISE up in the evening now, too

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) has been putting on a grand show at dawn for binocular users. It’s very far to the north on the sky’s dome, becoming visible now (with optical aid) to observers in the northern U.S. and Canada in the early evening skies as well. Charts and more info here.

We still have to wait for another very bright comet, what astronomers call a great comet. But a wonderful binocular comet has been gracing our early morning skies, and now it’s becoming visible in the evening as well, for observers at northerly latitudes such as those in the northern U.S. and Canada. Later this month, the comet will become visible in the evening for those at latitudes like those further south in the U.S. Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and glimpse this comet as a fuzzy ball, using only the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s splendid split tail. The comet is called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). In this post, we provide charts (below) that can help you see this celestial visitor.

Astrophotographers have been catching Comet NEOWISE before sunup and producing some glorious photos. Just today, we saw a Facebook post from astronomer Bob King in Duluth, Minnesota (see below), clearly showing the comet in the northwest after sunset. Check the bottom of this post for a few more photos, and visit EarthSky Community Photos for many more shots from people around the world of Comet NEOWISE. Thank you to everyone who has submitted photos!


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How Sally Ride blazed a trail for women in space

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride would become the first American woman to launch into space. She had already survived NASA’s grueling training and a barrage of tests, but there was another hurdle to cross before she boarded the Challenger space shuttle—overcoming the scrutiny of the media and the public.

In the lead-up to the launch, the astronaut fielded questions about menstruation, fashion, and even whether she might cry in space. But despite long-standing biases about women’s ability to withstand the rigors of space flight, Ride broke barriers—and changed the face of the space program along the way. (Here’s why women may be best suited for spaceflight.)

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Kathy Sullivan becomes first woman to Challenger Deep; EYOS coordinates call between International Space Station and DSSV Pressure Drop

In a world first, EYOS Expeditions today coordinated a call between the International Space Station and the DSSV Pressure Drop, the mothership of submersible DSV Limiting Factor. Limiting Factor ‘LF’ had just returned from a full ocean depth dive in the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ocean, with pilot Victor Vescovo of Caladan Oceanic and oceanographer/astronaut Dr. Kathy Sullivan onboard. The ISS is in Low Earth orbit at an altitude of 408 kms (254 miles) while the LF operates at a depth of nearly 7 miles.


Read the full article here.