Tag Archives: NASA

Stargazer still pumping em out after 25 years

The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, NASA, and Northrop Grumman used the latter’s Pegasus XL rocket to heft the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft into orbit last night.

The cool thing about Pegasus is that it was carried aloft by the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft, which took off from the Skid Strip runway at CCAFS before reaching an altitude and location where the rocket was released for launch.

The Stargazer serves as the “air-breathing reusable first stage” of Pegasus, which, according to Boeing, is the first winged vehicle to accelerate to eight times the speed of sound.

A converted Air Canada Lockheed L-1011 TriStar built in 1974, Stargazer has logged at least 43 missions, launching 94 satellites since 1994.

That’s just not something you see every day

AR-15s, NASA edition

Astronaut Ron Garan with a raygun prepared to defend Earth from an alien invasion. Just kidding, he is just holding NASA’s version of the sonic screwdriver

While there are no U.S. guns in space (that we know of) to secure their facilities nationwide, NASA contracts a variety of protective forces and maintains Emergency Response Teams while the agency’s Office of Inspector General has armed special agents who refer their findings from investigations to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

They also own and run a series of dedicated small arms ranges (for up to 7.62x51mm) to keep all of the above qualified and up to snuff.

With that, the country’s space agency just released a tender for some AR-15s, and it is written to pretty much be S&W M&P15s.

Now with Armornite!

More in my column at Guns.com.

Back on Earth, but not home yet, 53 years ago today

(18 Dec. 1965) — Astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., the pilot of the Gemini-7 spaceflight, is hoisted from the water by a recovery helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier USS Wasp. Astronaut Frank Borman, command pilot, waits in the raft to be hoisted aboard the helicopter.

The helicopter is Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (HSS-2/S-61) BuNo #149006 (Sikorsky #61-080) of “The Dragonslayers”  the “Sub Seekers” (thanks, Fabio!) of Helicopter Squadron 11 (HS-11). Contrary to popular belief, most astronaut scoopers were regular fleet ASW helicopters and crews.

The SH-3A, only 245 of which were made before the line was upgraded, when it was introduced in 1961 set new speed records for helicopters over a 3 km sea level course (198.8 mph) and a 25 km course (210.6 mph), making them literally the fastest production whirlybird in the world at the time. From Scott Carpenter’s Mercury mission in May 1962 to the end of the Apollo lunar program in December 1972, every NASA spacecraft crew retrieved by helicopter was recovered by a Sikorsky Sea King.

The particular airframe shown above was later upgraded to SH-3H standard and was retired by the Navy in 2005, now preserved in her later white livery at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum at McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the Spruce Goose)– but a very close sister #149003, is still in long-term storage at AMARC  where it has been since 1992.

As for HS-11? They are still around, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 out of NAS Norfolk, but they fly MH-60S’s now as HSC-11, The Dragonslayers.

More NASA travel posters!

In a continuation of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs’ “Exoplanet Travel Bureau Series,” the agency has released another set of their Visions of the Future travel slicks.

the grand tour
europaAstonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life make Jupiter’s moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter’s gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing. On Earth, wherever we find water, we find life. What will NASA’s Europa mission find when it heads for this intriguing moon in the 2020s?

titanFrigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Cold winds sculpt vast regions of hydrocarbon-rich dunes. There may even be cryovolcanoes of cold liquid water. NASA’s Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan’s perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.

enceladusThe discovery of Enceladus’ icy jets and their role in creating Saturn’s E-ring is one of the top findings of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Further Cassini mission discoveries revealed strong evidence of a global ocean and the first signs of potential hydrothermal activity beyond Earth – making this tiny Saturnian moon one of the leading locations in the search for possible life beyond Earth

Check out the rest of the posters, and print or download them in high resolution (200MB!)

Happy Freedom Day

Image credit: NASA/MSFC. REF: LOD 61C-884 (MIX FILE). Click to big up.

Image credit: NASA/MSFC. REF: LOD 61C-884 (MIX FILE). Click to big up.

54 years ago today: May 5, 1961 – CDR (later RADM) Alan Bartlett “Al” Shepard, Jr. became the second person and the first American in space on this date, lifting off from Cape Canaveral during the Freedom 7 mission aboard a Mercury Redstone rocket.

Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: “Don’t fuck up, Shepard…”

The rocket was based on the earlier Redstone rocket developed by German rocket expert Wernher von Braun’s team before they transferred from the Army to NASA in 1960. Work continued on the rocket and the first two Mercury-Redstones were assembled onsite at the Marshall Center with many of the components fabricated at Marshall. The Chrysler Corporation assembled an additional six vehicles.

The suborbital flight lasted only 15 minutes and traveled a downrange distance of 263.1 nautical miles (303 statute). Shepard splashed down safely into the Atlantic near the Bahamas and was airlifted to an awaiting aircraft carrier, USS Lake Champlain (CV-39), where a a Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse (after 1962 UH-34E) of Marine squadron HMM-262 recovered the Naval aviator and astronaut–arriving overhead within two minutes after splashdown.

Image credit: US Navy. Click to big up

Image credit: US Navy. Click to big up

Sadly, “The Champ” was sold for scrapping April 1972, and RADM Shepard passed on July 21, 1998– thankfully before he saw the end of manned U.S. spaceflight.

However HMM-262, now re designated VMM-262 due to their use of MV-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys, is hard at work, deploying to Nepal, where they will be plucking up earthquake survivors and delivering supplies to isolated areas.

Bravo Zulu both then and now.

The Connie’s sad last trip around the Horn

uss contellation on way to scrapping

From NASA Goddard’s Flickr feed:

“NASA’s Operation IceBridge  collected some rare images on a flight out of Punta Arenas, Chile on Nov. 5, 2014, on a science flight over western Antarctica dubbed Ferrigno-Alison-Abbott 01. Following a routine calibration pass over Punta Arenas airport, the NASA DC-8 overflew the ex-USS Constellation (CV-64) which is being towed for demolition after 53 yeas of service [41 on active duty, 12 in reserve mothballs]. The crew then snapped a few shots of a calving front of the Antarctic ice sheet. This particular flight plan was designed to collect data on changes in ice elevation along the coast near the Ferrigno and Alison ice streams, on the Abbot Ice Shelf, and grounded ice along the Eights Coast.”

“…Then the orbiter was powered down forever.”

Default Discovery’s historic cargo bay goes dark


Posted: December 16, 2011

After deploying 21 satellites from expansive confines, including the Hubble Space Telescope, commercial spacecraft and military eavesdroppers, hosting scientific platforms and hauling key pieces of the International Space Station, the payload bay of space shuttle Discovery was closed and locked as the spacecraft was powered off for the final time Friday.

With commands sent from the firing room in the nearby Launch Control Center, the port door swung shut first, followed by the starboard door.

Then the orbiter was powered down forever.



Farewell Spirit….1000+ days on Mars

RIP, Spirit: NASA to Cease Trying to Contact Its Silent Mars Rover
By Clay Dillow Posted 05.25.2011 at 10:47 am

We knew this day was coming, but it’s still never easy when days like today finally come: After more than a year of silence, NASA is ending its attempts to contact its Spirit rover, which has been dormant on the surface of Mars since its last communication with handlers on Earth since March 22, 2010.