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Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

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2016 May 22 11:07 PDT

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What's New?
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MAY 22 Vandenberg AFB Launch Schedule updated

Next Vandenberg Launch
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As of May 22

The next Vandenberg AFB rocket launch may be a Falcon 9 in July. The vehicle will place Taiwan's Formosat-5 satellite and the Sherpa dispenser carrying several small payloads into orbit.

For a complete listing of all recent and past Vandenberg launches, go to Vandenberg AFB Launch History. To access launch photos, videos, and audio reports, visit the Vandenberg Rocket and Missile Launch Multimedia library.


News
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Mount Aetna

Mount Aetna

The first eruption of 2016 by Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, was both complex and dramatic. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua spacecraft captured this true-color image on May 18 as the volcano sent ash high into the atmosphere. The ash was quickly blown southeastward over the Mediterranean Sea. Agua was launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. in 2002. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Europa's Ocean May Have An Earthlike Chemical Balance

(MAY 17) A new NASA study modeling conditions in the ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa suggests that the necessary balance of chemical energy for life could exist there, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity. More

Dragon Spacecraft Returns to Earth

(MAY 11) A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 11, about 261 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, with more than 3,700 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA, and then be prepared for shipment to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

A variety of technology and biology studies conducted in the unique microgravity environment of the space station returned aboard the commercial resupply spacecraft, including research in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.

The spacecraft also returned to Earth the final batch of human research samples from former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s historic one-year mission.

Dragon currently is the only station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. The spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida April 8, and arrived at the space station April 10, carrying almost 7,000 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on the company’s eighth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

NASA

Naukluft Plateau

Rugged Mars plateau

This view from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover released on April 27 shows the rugged surface of "Naukluft Plateau" and part of the rim of Gale Crater. The image was taken as part of long-term campaign to document the context and details of the geology and landforms along Curiosity's traverse since its landing in 2012. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. manages the Mars Science Laboratory project for NASA. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Moorpark College Star Party

(APR 24) The Ventura County Astronomical Society will host a family friendly observing session on May 7 at Moorpark College. The event will take place from 9 to 11 p.m. at the college observatory at 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark, Calif.

For more information, go to www.vcas.org.

Ventura County Astronomical Society

Ball Aerospace Begins Environmental Testing for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-1 Satellite

(APR 22) BOULDER, Colo. -- Ball Aerospace has begun environmental testing on the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS-1) satellite. More

The Spider and the Fly

The Spider

The spider part of "The Spider and the Fly" nebulae, abounds in star formation, in this composite infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). 2MASS 1.2 micron data is shown in blue. Spitzer 3.6 and 4.5 micron data are green and red, respectively. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. manages the Spitzer mission for NASA. The California Institute of Technology and JPL are participants in the 2MASS project. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS

Saturn Spacecraft Samples Interstellar Dust

(APR 14) NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected the faint but distinct signature of dust coming from beyond our solar system. More

ULA Releases Application for University CubeSat Competition

(APR 7) CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Applications are now open for U.S. colleges and universities to compete for free CubeSat rides on United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rockets.

CubeSat competition applications, available at www.ulalaunch.com/cubesats.aspx, are due June 1, 2016, and winning schools will be announced during the summer. The competition is open to all U.S. accredited colleges and universities, which are encouraged to team or perform outreach with K-12 schools to further expand these opportunities throughout the STEM community.

CubeSats are miniaturized satellites originally designed for use in conjunction with university educational projects and are typically 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (4 inches x 4 inches x 4 inches) and approximately 1.3 kg (3 lbs).

Rideshare is a flight-proven, innovative approach that provides customers a low-cost way to achieve various mission objectives without the need for a dedicated launch vehicle.

United Launch Alliance

Golden State

California from Space

A wealth of detail is visible in California and surrounding areas in this recently-released image from NASA's Terra spacecraft. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard Terra recorded this true-color image during a daylight pass over the region on March 17. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

NASA Selects Instrument Team to Build Next-Gen Planet Hunter

(MAR 29) NASA has selected a team to build a new, cutting-edge instrument that will detect planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, by measuring the miniscule “wobbling” of stars. More

Tales of a Tilting Moon Hidden in Its Polar Ice

(MAR 23) TUCSON, Ariz. - A new study published Wednesday in Nature reports that the moon may not have always had the same face pointed toward the Earth. More

Planet Formation

Radio image of planet formation

The earliest stages of planet formation are visible in this radio image of the star HL Tau, located some 450 light-years from Earth. Researchers created the view by combining radio observations from the ALMA radio telescope array in Chile and the Very Large Array in New Mexico. ALMA and the VLA observed the star at a wavelength 1 millimeter and 7 millimeters, respectively. The longer wavelength VLA data penetrated the dusty region surrounding the star, revealing a ring with a distinct clump of dust containing roughly 3 to 8 times the mass of the Earth (shown in yellow). The VLA consists of 27 radio antennas west of Socorro, NM. Credit: Carrasco-Gonzalez, et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

Jupiter Jumps into Viewing of March Sky

(MAR 15) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Jupiter returns to the night sky for stargazers at this month’s free public viewing of the stars with Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope on Friday, March 18, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and lasting several hours at the Westmont Observatory.

“At long last Jupiter will be high in the sky during viewing time,” says Tom Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “If the seeing is good, we should be able bring out some of the details in the surface structure of Jupiter.”

Earlier in the evening, Whittemore will point the college’s 8-inch refractor telescope at the 11-day-old moon. “The moon will lie very high in the sky in the early evening,” he says. “If the seeing is particularly good, we should be able to make out considerable detail in the large crater, Copernicus. Particularly interesting will be the terracing on the crater’s walls as well as the mountain peaks in the middle of Copernicus. These peaks were left behind as the result of a large impact in the early history of the Moon. Some of the ray structure surrounding the crater, Tycho, should also be evident.”

Finally, the viewing will include several of the brighter open clusters near the top of the sky, such as Messier 35 in Gemini, and Messiers 36, 37 and 38, a wonderful trio of open clusters in Auriga, the Charioteer.

The observatory opens its doors to the public every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, whose members bring their own telescopes to Westmont for the public to gaze through. The Keck Telescope is housed in the observatory between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex. Free parking is available near the baseball field.

Westmont College

New NASA Instrument to Study Air Pollution

(MAR 10) PASADENA, Calif. - NASA has selected a proposal from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, that will put a new instrument in low-Earth orbit to track harmful particulate air pollutants.

Observations of small atmospheric aerosols from the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) will be combined with health information to determine the toxicity of different particulate matter types in airborne pollutants over the world's major cities. David Diner of JPL is the principal investigator.

MAIA uses a twin-camera instrument that will make radiometric and polarimetric measurements needed to characterize the sizes, compositions and quantities of particulate matter in air pollution. As part of the MAIA investigation, researchers will combine MAIA measurements with population health records to better understand the connections between aerosol pollutants and health problems such as adverse birth outcomes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and premature deaths.

The MAIA team has extensive experience in polarimetry, air pollution and human health. Diner has led numerous polarimetry observations from sub-orbital platforms throughout his career. The team includes partnerships with NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as well as several universities, federal research organizations and international partners.

Adapted from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Release

Momotombo

Satellite image of Momotombo volcano

More than 16 years after launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., NASA's Terra spacecraft continues to provide a stream of images of planet Earth. On March 2, the craft passed over Nicaragua and returned this false-color image of the plume from the Momotombo volcano, which was erupting for the first time in more than a century. In this view, vegetation appears red, the volcanic plume is blue-gray, and lava flows are dark gray and brown. Image courtesy of NASA

Versatile Instrument to Scout
for Kuiper Belt Objects

(MAR 3) PASADENA, Calif. - At the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, astronomers are busy tinkering with a high-tech instrument that could discover a variety of objects both far from Earth and closer to home. More

Minuteman III Launches from Vandenberg

(FEB 26) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 11:01 p.m. PST here Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the Nation's fielded ICBM force," said Moss. "Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team."

Vandenberg AFB

Minuteman III Launch Scheduled

(FEB 24) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled between 11:00 p.m. PST Thursday, Feb. 25 and 5:00 a.m. PST Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, from north Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority.

"The launch process requires tremendous teamwork and involves months of preparation," said Moss. "The data gained from these launches allows us to maintain a high readiness capability and ensures operational effectiveness of the most powerful weapons in the nation's arsenal."

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, includes crew members and maintainers from the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota.

The 576th FLTS is responsible for installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile, which collect data and ensure safety requirements are met.

Vandenberg AFB

Minot Tests Minuteman III Missile with Launch from Vandenberg

(FEB 21) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, aboard the Airborne Launch Control System, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 11:34 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Feb. 20, from Vandenberg AFB, California. More

Minuteman III Launch Scheduled

(FEB 18) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - - An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled between 11:00 p.m. PST Saturday, Feb. 20 and 5:00 a.m. PST Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, from north Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority.

"This mission continues a long string of vital ICBM flight tests from Vandenberg Air Force Base," said Moss. "The launch not only demonstrates the apability of the Minuteman III weapon system, but also the tremendous capabilities of Airmen who maintain and operate it. The men and women of the 30th Space Wing are proud to partner with the Air Force Global Strike Command team to conduct this important launch."

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, includes aircrew members from the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and crew members and maintainers from the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota.

The 576th FLTS is responsible for installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile, which collect data and ensure safety requirements, are met.

Vandenberg AFB

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office

Delta IV/NROL-45 launch

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-45 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg AFB on February 10. Photo courtesy ULA

(FEB 10) Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., (Feb. 10, 2016) - A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on Feb. 10 at 3:40 a.m. PST. More

Delta IV Scheduled to Launch from Vandenberg

(FEB 7) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Space Launch Complex-6 here Wednesday, Feb. 10, with a launch window opening at 3:39 a.m. PDT.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, will be the launch decision authority.

"We are excited and ready to take on our first Delta launch of 2016," said Moss. "We are proud to showcase this national capability and everyone involved has been working tirelessly to ensure this launch is a safe and successful one."

Vandenberg's 4th Space Launch Squadron is in final preparations for launch with Vandenberg's mission partners from ULA, the Aerospace Corporation, and the NRO.

"A launch like this takes teamwork and dedication," said Lt. Col. Eric Zarybnisky, 4th SLS commander. "Our mission assurance technicians and engineers have worked hand-in-hand with United Launch Alliance going over critical procedures and tasks to certify this launch is secure."

Vandenberg AFB

Missile Defense Test Completed

Ground-based Interceptor launch

A U.S. Missile Defense Agency flight test of a Ground-based Interceptor launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 28, at 1:57 p.m. PST. The test was conducted by the 30th Space Wing, MDA, and U.S. Northern Command. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos

(JAN 28) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A Ground-Based Interceptor, an element of the nation's Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, was launched as part of a non-intercept test from North Vandenberg today, Jan. 28, 2016, at 1:57 p.m. PST by the 30th Space Wing, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the Launch Decision Authority.

"Both the 30th Space Wing and the Missile Defense Agency worked hard to get the team ready for this test" said Clark. "Today's launch is testament to the professionalism of all involved and the close relationships we have with our missile defense partners."

Vandenberg AFB

Missile Defense Test Scheduled

(JAN 25) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A U.S. Missile Defense Agency flight test of a Ground-based Interceptor is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The test will be conducted by the 30th Space Wing, the Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing vice commander, is the Launch Decision Authority.

"The 30th Space Wing has a long and proud history of working diligently alongside our Missile Defense Agency partners to provide safe launch operations for missile defense tests," said Clark. "It's an honor for the wing to work with the Missile Defense Agency and other mission partners on this test mission which is extremely important to our national security."

Vandenberg AFB

Falcon 9 Launched

Falcon 9/Jason-3 launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Jason-3 spacecraft lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on January 17. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

(JAN 17) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg supported the successful launch of the U.S.-European Jason-3 satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 here Sunday, Jan. 17, at 10:42 a.m. PST.

Col. Shane Clark, 30th Space Wing Vice Commander, was the Launch Decision Authority.

"The 30th Space Wing takes pride in supporting the successful launch of the new ocean monitoring satellite with the NASA and SpaceX teams," said Clark. "Today's launch is a testament to the professionalism and commitment to mission assurance, public safety, and mission success on the Western Range."

Jason-3 will continue the ability to monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights, monitor the intensification of tropical cyclones and support seasonal and coastal forecasts. Jason-3 data will also benefit fisheries management, marine industries and research into human impacts on the world's oceans. The mission is planned to last at least three years, with a goal of five years.

Vandenberg AFB

Sunday Vandenberg Launch

(JAN 13) A Falcon 9 booster carrying the Jason-3 oceanographic satellite is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg AFB on Sunday morning, January 17. The Falcon is scheduled to lift-off at 10:42:18 PST, the start of a 30-second launch window.

Following liftoff, the Falcon 9 will head towards the southeast and carry Jason-3 into orbit.

Under very good conditions, the bright flame from the Falcon 9's first stage could be visible to the unaided eye as far away as 100 miles. The launch visibility footprint could include Big Sur, Bakersfield, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and coastal Orange County.

For the best view of the launch, use tripod-mounted or image- stabilized binoculars, a spotting scope, or an astronomical telescope.

Brian Webb

Student-Built Experiment Integrated Onto UA's OSIRIS-REx NASA Mission

(JAN 7) TUCSON, Ariz. - A student-built experiment designed for the University of Arizona's OSIRIS-REx NASA mission has been integrated onto the spacecraft. More

Past News

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