Minuteman III Test Missile Launches from Vandenberg
(MAY 22) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III
intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test
at 6:27 a.m. here Wednesday from Launch Facility-4 on north Vandenberg.
The launch, originally slated for 3:01 to 9:01 a.m. Tuesday, was rescheduled
due to a range safety instrumentation issue.
"I am proud of our team," said Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice
commander and the launch decision authority.
"Because of their professionalism, discipline and intense focus on mission
assurance, we saw a safe and successful launch this morning."
Telescope to Offer Glimpses of Cassini Division
(MAY 10) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope will zoom in
on the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn and a globular cluster during a
free, public viewing Friday, May 17, beginning at about 8 p.m. and lasting several
hours. The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening. In case of
inclement weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and
check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been cancelled.
Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says the moon will be more than
seven days into its current cycle. “There will be a number of craters on the
terminator, the portion of the moon’s surface where the sun is rising,” he says.
“If the seeing is steady we should get a good glimpse of the jagged edges of
these craters as the night advances.”
Later in the evening, Whittemore hopes to turn the 24-inch reflector telescope
toward Saturn’s Cassini Division, the gap between the A and B rings.
Dry winds fan a wildfire near Camarillo, Calif. and send a thick plume of
smoke offshore. The blaze began as a small incident on May 2 just before 07:00 PDT.
Within a few hours, the small fire had turned into a major incident. NASA's Terra
spacecraft passed over the area later that morning and recorded this view of the
fire (red area) and smoke plume. Image courtesy of the MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
NASA Antenna Cuts Mercury to Core,
Solves 30 Year Mystery
(MAY 3) Researchers working with high-precision planetary radars, including the Goldstone Solar System Radar of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have discovered strong evidence that the planet Mercury has
a molten core. More
NASA Prepares for International Space Biology Research Mission
(APR 24) MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. - NASA and the Russian Institute of Biomedical
Problems, Moscow, are collaborating on a space biology mission aboard an unmanned
Russian biosatellite to understand better the mechanisms of how life adapts to
microgravity and then readapts to gravity on Earth. More
NASA's Newest Solar Satellite Arrives
at Vandenberg AFB for Launch
Workers unload NASA's IRIS spacecraft from a truck at the processing facility at Vandenberg where the spacecraft will be readied for launch aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket. Photo credit: Vandenberg AFB/Randy Beaudoin
(APR 17) GREENBELT, Md. -- NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS)
satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on
Tuesday, April 16, to begin its final preparations for launch,
currently scheduled no earlier than May 28. More
Incoming Solar Storm
(APR 11) A strong M6-class solar flare on April 11th has hurled a CME toward Earth.
Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are possible when the fast-moving
cloud reaches our planet on April 13th.
Flapping in the Wind
The discarded parachute from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover appears to flap in the
martian wind in an animation released this week by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The chute lay on the Martian ground during months after its use in safe landing of
the Curiosity rover. Seven images from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter were combined to create the animation. The University of Arizona, Tucson,
operates the orbiter's HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace &
Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
Calif. manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Science Laboratory projects
for NASA. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
NASA Team Investigates Complex Chemistry at Titan
(APR 3) A laboratory experiment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.,
simulating the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry
that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the
atmosphere than previously thought. More
NASA Scientists Find Moon and Asteroids Share Cosmic History
(MAR 25) PASADENA, Calif. - NASA and international researchers have discovered
that Earth's moon has more in common than previously thought with large asteroids
roaming our solar system. More
Despite optomistic predictions, Comet Pan-STARRS proved to be difficult to see for
many northern hemisphere sky watchers. The Webmaster photographed the elusive
object (click for full view) low in the west at dusk on March 13 from Ventura
County, Calif. The comet had passed near the Sun and entered the evening sky just
days earlier. To image the object, the Webmaster used a vintage Nikon D70 digital
SLR, 50mm lens, and an exposure of 15 seconds at f/4. Copyright 2013, Brian Webb
Voyager 1 Update
(MAR 20) PASADENA, Calif. - "The Voyager team is aware of reports today that NASA's
Voyager 1 has left the solar system," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist
based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It is the
consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar
system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team
reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where
energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic
field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change
of direction has not yet been observed."
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Hagel: U.S. Bolstering Missile Defense
(MAR 15) WASHINGTON - The United States will add more ground-based ballistic
missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from
North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.
The blue waters of Shark Bay contrast with the surrounding land of Western
Australia in this Terra spacecraft image released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
on March 5. Shark Bay contains the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, one of the
very few places in the world where living stromatolites are found. The image was
recorded using Terra's ASTER instrument. Terra was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 1999
December. Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/METI/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER
Lockheed Martin Wins Surveillance Satellite Contract
(MAR 5) SUNNYVALE, Calif. - The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] a $284.4 million fixed-price contract to procure long lead parts for the fifth and sixth Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites in the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning constellation.
Featuring a mix of GEO satellites, hosted payloads in highly elliptical earth (HEO) orbit, and associated ground hardware and software, the SBIRS program delivers resilient and improved missile warning capabilities for the nation while simultaneously providing significant contributions to the military's missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness mission areas.
Lockheed Martin previously received a contract to complete non-recurring engineering activities for GEO-5 and 6 and procure select long lead spacecraft parts enabling supplier production lines to deliver the lowest possible price for each component. This next phase authorizes the purchase of the remaining long lead spacecraft components. A final contract for full production under fixed-price terms will be awarded at a later date.
Lockheed Martin's SBIRS contracts include four HEO payloads, four GEO satellites, and ground assets to receive, process, and disseminate the infrared mission data. Under the new contract, the team will procure long lead parts for the fifth and sixth GEO satellites.
Two HEO payloads and the first geosynchronous (GEO-1) satellite have already been launched. GEO-2 is scheduled for launch in March of 2013.
SpaceX Launches Falcon 9
(MAR 1) Hawthorne, Calif. - Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)
successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to orbit for
SpaceX's second mission under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract
with NASA. Falcon 9 completed its job perfectly, continuing its 100 percent
success rate. More
A large meteor streaked over Russia's Chelyabinsk region on the morning of
February 15, causing widespread damage and 1,000 injuries. Scientists from
Colorado State University analyzed imagery from a U.S. DMSP satellite that
passed over the region moments later and found the trail left by the meteor as
it entered Earth's atmosphere. Vandenberg AFB, California serves as the launch
site for the DMSP military weather satellite program. Image courtesy Colorado
NASA Selects Launch Services for ICESat-2
(FEB 22) CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's
Kennedy Space Center in Florida has selected United Launch Services,
LLC of Englewood, Colo., to provide Delta II launch services for the
Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)-2 mission, currently
scheduled for July 2016.
A firm fixed-price launch service task order has been awarded under
the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity NASA Launch Services
(NLS) II contract. NASA's total cost to launch ICESat-2 is $96.6
million, including payload processing, integrated services,
telemetry, reimbursables and other launch support requirements.
The Delta II rocket will place the ICESat-2 spacecraft into a
near-circular Earth polar orbit following liftoff from Space Launch
Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ICESat-2 is a
continuation of the global time series of precision ice topography
measurements initiated by the first ICESat mission. ICESat-2 will
measure changes in the elevation of the polar ice sheets to
understand their contribution to current and future sea-level rise.
It also will characterize polar-sea ice thicknesses and global
vegetation heights to understand their connections to the Earth
Subcontractors performing work for United Launch Services include
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., Alliant
Techsystems, Inc of Magna, Utah and Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif.
United Launch Services' United Launch Alliance provides the Delta II
and launch services.
NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center is responsible
for management of the ICESat-2 launch service acquisition and
Vandenberg Supports Another Successful Launch
(FEB 11) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg launched a United
Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a NASA payload from Space Launch Complex-3
at 10:02 a.m. here Monday.
Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision
"We completed our mission of supporting a safe and successful launch," said
Armagno, "I am so proud of my team on another job well done."
It was the sixth Atlas V launch for Vandenberg.
The 30th Space Wing and NASA hosted a launch viewing party at
Providence Landing Park in Lompoc that brought in nearly 1,800 spectators
from all over California.
"Our communities have supported our base and our mission for many
years," said Larry Hill, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs community relations
chief. "It was great to see such an amazing turnout for this launch."
Mobility, the rock band from United States Air Force Band of the
Golden West, played for the launch spectators.
The first-ever holes drilled into a martian rock are visible in this image
released on February 9. NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recently made the holes to
obtain a sample for analysis from inside of the rock. The Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. manages the Curiosity mission for NASA. Image
Atlas Launch Visibility
(FEB 8) An Atlas V rocket carrying the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM)
spacecraft is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg AFB on February 11.
Plans call for the Atlas to lift off from Space Launch Complex 3
(SLC-3) at south Vandenberg at 10:02 PST, the start of a launch
window that extends until 10:50 PST. However, issues such as technical
problems, bad weather, or ships or aircraft straying into the range
can cause the launch to happen at any time during the window or to be
rescheduled for another day.
At liftoff, the Atlas will rise vertically from SLC-3 for several
seconds before it slowly begins to pitch over and head toward the
south. The vehicle will briefly produce a contrail as it passes
through a zone that extends roughly from 33,000 to 38,000 feet above
The Atlas V rocket variant for slated for launch on Monday uses
liquid propellant engines and no strap-on solid rocket motors.
Unlike solid rocket motors, which produce a brilliant flame, liquid
propellant engines produce a much fainter flame. At launch time, the
Sun will be well above the horizon, creating a bright sky background.
The rocket's use of liquid propellants and the bright sky will
greatly diminish the visibility of the launch.
Under the best of circumstances, the Atlas V will probably only be
visible for the first few minutes of flight from liftoff to first
stage cutoff and stage 1/2 separation.
Under good conditions, observers within seven miles of the launch pad
should enjoy a nice display. For observers in outlying areas the
display will be very subdued.
Under very good conditions, the first stage flame may be visible to
the naked eye as far away as Carpinteria, Pismo Beach, and Taft.
The short contrail from the first stage may be visible as far away as
Pasadena, King City, and Bakersfield.
California Astronomer Honored
(FEB 1) ARLINGTON, VA - President Obama today awarded 12 eminent researchers
the National Medal of Science and 11 extraordinary inventors the National Medal
of Technology and Innovation, the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government
upon scientists, engineers and inventors. The recipients received their awards
at a White House ceremony. This marks the 50th anniversary of the presentation
of the first National Medals of Science in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.
Those honored include astronomer Sandra Faber of the University of California,
Santa Cruz who was recognized for "...leadership in numerous path-breaking
studies of extra-galactic astronomy and galaxy formation and for oversight of
the construction of important instruments, including the Keck telescopes."
Faber is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California
Observatories and the Lick Observatory. Her research, which focuses on the
formation and evolution of galaxies and the evolution of structures in the
universe, has revolutionized the way cosmologists understand and model the
universe. She leads a Hubble Space Telescope project designed to give scientists a
view of galaxy formation nearly as far back as the Big Bang.
National Science Foundation
Ground-Based Interceptor Completes Successful Flight Test
A Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) climbs following a silo launch from Vandenberg
AFB on January 26. The launch was performed to test improvements to the anti-missile
kill vehicle carried atop the GBI. Photo by Brian Webb
(JAN 26) The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) successfully completed a flight test of
a three-stage ground-based interceptor (GBI), launched from Vandenberg Air Force
Base, Calif., at 2 p.m. (PST) today.
Data from this flight test will be used to evaluate the Exoatmospheric Kill
Vehicle system performance in a flight environment. If a target missile were
present, the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle would collide directly with the threat
warhead to perform a hit-to-kill intercept. Engineering data from this test
will be used to improve confidence for future intercept missions.
A target missile launch was not planned for this flight test. After performing fly
out maneuvers, the three-stage booster deployed the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle to
a designated point in space. After separating from the booster, the
Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle executed a variety of pre-planned maneuvers to
collect performance data in space.
Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program
officials will assess and evaluate system performance based upon telemetry and
other data obtained during the test.
Today's event, designated Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Control Test Vehicle
(GM CTV)-01, is part of an extensive test series initiated after the Flight Test
Ground-Based Interceptor (FTG)-06a failure in December 2010. The Exoatmospheric
Kill Vehicle flown during GM CTV-01 was modified based on findings from the
FTG-06a Failure Review Board. This test is the critical first step in returning
GMD to successful intercept testing.
U.S. Department of Defense
Missile Defense Test Scheduled
(JAN 24) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The 30th Space Wing and the U.S.
Missile Defense Agency are scheduled to conduct a flight test
exercising elements of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system Jan.
26, between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m on North base.
Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, is the Launch Decision
"Vandenberg Hawks are working with MDA to provide safe launch
operations for the test," " said Armagno."It's a pleasure to work with
our MDA mission partners."
The test will involve the launch of a three-stage Ground-Based
Interceptor missile. It does not involve an intercept, and no target
missile will be launched. MDA will use the test results to improve and
enhance the GMD element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System,
designed to defend the Nation, deployed forces, friends and allies
from ballistic missile attacks, according to an MDA spokesperson.
Tooele Army Depot to Store Rocket Motors for Missile Defense Agency
(JAN 14) TOOELE ARMY DEPOT, Utah -- After a year of meticulous planning and
preparation, Tooele Army Depot has begun to receive and store first- and
second-stage C-4 rocket motors from the Trident I C-4 Fleet Ballistic
Missile/Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile from the Missile Defense Agency.
Lakes on Saturn's moon Titan are revealed in a Cassini spacecraft radar
image released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on January 8th. The craft's
radar mapper penetrated the thick haze surrounding Titan to show lakes of liquid
hydrocarbons (left) and partially filled lakes or saturated ground (top right).
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Cassini
mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. Credit:
A Big Sunspot Turns Toward Earth
(JAN 11) One of the biggest sunspots of the current solar cycle is now turning
toward Earth. Named AR1654, the active region is crackling with medium-sized
(M-class) flares and could be poised to break the recent spell of calm space
weather around our planet.