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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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2014 October 19 19:50 PDT

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Solar-terrestrial parameters

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3-day K-index Plot

3-day K-index Forecast

Image: NOAA

60-day Solar-terrestrial Plot

60-day Solar Flux Plot

Image: www.solen.info

Multi-year Solar Flux Plot

Long-term Solar Flux Plot

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What's New?
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OCT 19 Vandenberg AFB Launch Schedule updated

Next Vandenberg Launch
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As of October 19

The next announced Vandenberg AFB rocket launch is an Atlas V during an undisclosed launch window on December 11. The Atlas will lift off from SLC-3 at south base and place the classified NROL-35 payload into orbit for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

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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X-37B Lands at Vandenberg AFB

(OCT 17) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 3 (OTV-3), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:24 a.m. Oct. 17. More

Copper Moon

Total Lunar Eclipse

The full Moon takes on a dull copper-red color during a total lunar eclipse on October 9. The pre-dawn event was visible to the unaided eye from the U.S. West Coast and beyond. Robert Lunsford recorded this image of the Moon during totality from Chula Vista, California at 04:15 PDT using a 9.25-inch schmitt-cassegrain telescope, Canon Power Shot S2 IS camera, and an exposure time of 1.3 seconds. Image copyright 2014, Robert Lunsford. Used with permission.

NMSU Helps NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program Achieve Rare Feat

(OCT 10) For the first time in the 27-year launch history in Fort Sumner, N.M., New Mexico State University’s Physical Science Laboratory’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility team launched three balloon experiments on three consecutive days for NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program. More

Minuteman III Launches From Vandenberg

(SEP 23) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 7:45 a.m. here Tuesday.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"An outstanding display of teamwork ensured 100-percent mission success for the first Minuteman launch of the year here at Vandenberg," said Col. Balts. "We constantly focus on flawless execution of our launch, range and expeditionary missions. I am extremely proud of the collaboration between the 30th SW and the 576th FLTS."

Vandenberg AFB

Upgrade Ceremony

Pillar Point AFS ribbon cutting ceremony

U.S. Air Force and InDyne dignitaries participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony September 10 at Pillar Point Air Force Station, Calif. Located four hours north of Vandenberg AFB, Pillar Point supports launches from Vandenberg by transmitting commands to destroy vehicles in the event of an anomaly and by receiving telemetry transmitted from vehicles during flight. The ceremony marked the modernization of Pillar Point AFS through replacement of the Command Transmitter 4, which was in service since the 1960's, and a major modification involving the facility's telemetry system. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando Aparicio Jr.

Satellite Accepted Into DMSP Constellation

(SEP 16) The newest Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], was accepted for operations by U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) on August 19. More

Boeing Receives First Order for 502 Phoenix Small Satellite

(SEP 10) EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Boeing [NYSE: BA] has received its first commercial order for the 502 Phoenix small satellite from HySpecIQ of Washington, D.C. More


Hurricane Marie

Terra spacecraft image of Hurricane Marie

In the 14 years since its launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., NASA's Terra spacecraft has images numerous atmospheric phenomena. On August 26 at 12:05 PDT (19:05 UTC) Terra satellite imaged a weakening Hurricane Marie as it swirled off the coast of Mexico. At the time this image was captured, Marie measured over 400 miles in diameter. Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

NASA Ames Opens Campus Gates, Hosts First Public Open House in 17 Years

(SEP 2) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - For the first time since 1997, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will open its gates and share its world-class space and aeronautics research campus with surrounding communities on Oct. 18, 2014. Starting today, free general admission tickets are available for the event.

The event will feature exhibits highlighting Ames' space missions, a two-mile, self-guided walking tour past facilities including huge wind tunnels and Ames' simulated Martian landscape, opportunities to visit with Ames engineers and scientists, and family-friendly talks with Ames researchers. Participants can learn more about Ames' major contributions to the International Space Station, the Curiosity Mars rover, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) orbiter, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) research aircraft and the planet-hunting Kepler mission, and see demonstrations of technologies invented at Ames in the center's 75-year history.

Tickets with reserved entry times are required. This is a pedestrian-only event; no on-site visitor parking will be permitted. Public transportation is highly encouraged. Buses will shuttle visitors from local public transit stations to Ames. Other transportation options will be posted on the event website.

For more information and to register for the Open House, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ames/openhouse2014/

NASA Ames Research Center

SMAP Launch Delayed

(AUG 29) The launch of NASA’s SMAP spacecraft from Vandenberg AFB has been delayed indefinitely. The soil moisture-measuring mission was slated to lift-off aboard a Delta II rocket shortly after sunrise on November 5.

A Jet Propulsion Laboratory official told Space Archive that the launch was delayed to allow for additional testing and evaluation that includes the SMAP antenna Reflector Boom Assembly (RBA). The purpose of the additional testing and evaluation is to ensure that the spacecraft will function as intended after launch.

The official also said that the launch date is currently listed as indefinite. However, NASA will attempt to identify the earliest possible launch opportunity between mid-December and late February. NASA should announce a new date in late September.

Brian Webb

Ring King

Cassini spacecraft image of Saturn

Saturn and its rings are suspended against the blackness of space in this Cassini spacecraft image released on August 18. The spacecraft recorded this view from a distance of approximately 2 million miles (3 million kilometers) from Saturn. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Aerojet Rocketdyne Recognized for Helping to Save Satellite

(AUG 20) SACRAMENTO, Calif., – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, has received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Electric Propulsion Technical Committee at the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics for its contribution to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency-1 (AEHF-1) Rescue Team. The team, which included two other aerospace companies and the U.S. Air Force, helped save the AEHF-1 military communications satellite and place it into proper orbit after the spacecraft’s main bipropellant engine failed to ignite.

The AEHF-1 satellite was successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster in August 2010, and was expected to reach geosynchronous orbit within 100 days. But the bi-propellant propulsion system on the satellite’s main engine failed, stranding the AEHF-1 in the wrong orbit and placing it at risk of being a total loss. The AEHF-1 Rescue Team was assembled and devised a plan to use the spacecraft’s smaller hydrazine thrusters to lift the orbit above the atmosphere and then use the electric Hall thruster system to complete the orbit-raising mission—with whisper-like impulses—until it reached its desired orbit 14 months later.

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Atlas Launch Successful

(AUG 13) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg supported the successful launch of a commercial satellite on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 here Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

Col. Marc Del Rosario, 30th Operations Group commander, was the launch decision authority.

"The 30th Space Wing is proud of supporting the successful launch of a high-resolution commercial earth imaging satellite with the United Launch Alliance team," said Del Rosario. "Today's launch is a testament to the professionalism and commitment to mission assurance, public safety, and mission success on the Western Range."

The Atlas V rocket carried the DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 satellite.

This satellite will further enhance the DigitalGlobe collection capacity for more rapid and reliable collection and expand its imagery product offerings.

Vandenberg AFB

Recovery Test

Orion spacecraft water recovery exercise

U.S. Navy personnel use a rigid hull inflatable boat to approach a boilerplate Orion spacecraft during a recovery test in the Pacific Ocean off of San Diego, Calif. on August 2. Orion is America’s next generation spacecraft that will take astronauts to destinations never explored by humans. Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Atlas Launch Scheduled

(AUG 7) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch the WorldView-3 satellite on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 here Wednesday, Aug. 13, with a launch window opening at 11:29 a.m. PDT.

The WorldView-3 satellite was built by DigitalGlobe and United Launch Alliance builds and flies the rocket. The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base is responsible for range safety and launch operations.

Col. Marc Del Rosario, 30th Operations Group commander, will be the launch decision authority.

"The entire 30th Space Wing team of military, government civilians, and contractors are all honored to launch the first Atlas V commercial mission from Vandenberg AFB. The team's planning and behind the scenes hard-work with United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin, and the Federal Aviation Administration are all integral to provide safe launch operations on the Western Range," said Del Rosario, this mission's launch decision authority.

WorldView-3 is the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite. The satellite will provide 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24 m multispectral resolution, and 3.7 m short-wave infrared resolution with an average revisit time of less than 1 day. This will further enhance the DigitalGlobe collection capacity for more rapid and reliable collection and expand its imagery product offerings.

Vandenberg AFB

New NASA Research Shows Giant Asteroids Battered Early Earth

(JUL 30) New research shows that more than four billion years ago the surface of Earth was heavily reprocessed – or melted, mixed, and buried – as a result of giant asteroid impacts. More

Comet Catalina

WISE spacecraft image of Comet Catalina

Once thought to be an asteroid, Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) glows brightly in this recently released infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. WISE imaged the comet just one day after the object's closest approach to the sun. WISE was launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. in late 2009.

SpaceX Soft Lands Falcon 9 Rocket First Stage

(JUL 23) The following is a statement from Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX:

"Following last week's successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able to consistently reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.

After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position. The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight. Going forward, we are taking steps to minimize the build up of ice and spots on the camera housing in order to gather improved video on future launches.

At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment. However, our next couple launches are for very high velocity geostationary satellite missions, which don’t allow enough residual propellant for landing. In the longer term, missions like that will fly on Falcon Heavy, but until then Falcon 9 will need to fly in expendable mode.

We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success. Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success."

Boeing to Design Spaceplane

(JUL 15) HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., July 15, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] plans to design a reusable launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce satellite launch costs. DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane is conceived as a reusable, unmanned booster with costs, operation and reliability similar to modern aircraft.

Under the $4 million preliminary design contract, Boeing plans to work on a reusable first stage launch vehicle capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage to launch small satellite payloads of 3,000 to 5,000 pounds (1,361 kg to 2,268 kg) into low-Earth orbit.

“Our design would allow the autonomous booster to carry the second stage and payload to high altitude and deploy them into space. The booster would then return to Earth, where it could be quickly prepared for the next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft.” said Will Hampton, Boeing XS-1 program manager.

DARPA plans to hold a Phase II competition next year for the follow-on production order to build the vehicle and conduct demonstration flights.

Boeing

Typhoon By Moonlight

Suomi NPP image of Typhoon Neoguri

Typhoon Neoguri swirls in the East China Sea in this night image recorded by the American Suomi NPP satellite at 2:07 a.m. Japan Standard Time on July 9. The storm was imaged by a special “day-night band” that detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses light intensification to detect dim signals. The instrument can sense light as much as 100,000 times fainter than conventional visible-light sensors, making it very sensitive to moonlight and city lights. In this case, the cloud tops were lit by the nearly full Moon. Suomi was launched from California's Vandenberg AFB in October 2011. Image courtesy NASA

Southern California Astronomy Expo

(JUL 9) Join dozens of astronomy product manufacturers, organizations, and clubs at Oceanside Photo and Telescope's annual Southern California Astronomy Expo on Saturday, July 12th.

The free event will be held from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at OPT's showroom at 918 Mission Ave., Oceanside, Calif.

For more information, go to:

www.optscae.com

Brian Webb

Delta II Launch Success

Delta II/OCO-2 launch

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launches with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite onboard from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Wednesday, July 2. OCO-2 will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

(JUL 2) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A NASA satellite on a United Launch Alliance rocket was launched from Space Launch Complex-2 here Wednesday, July 2, at 2:56 a.m. PDT.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

The Delta II rocket carried NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2; the second of NASA's five Earth science missions to launch in 2014.

OCO-2 is NASA's first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth's climate. OCO-2 will provide a new tool for understanding the human and natural sources of carbon dioxide emissions and the natural "sinks" that absorb carbon dioxide and help control its buildup. The observatory will study their changes over time.

Vandenberg AFB

Delta II Launch Visibility

(JUN 27) Next Tuesday’s early morning launch of a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg AFB remains on schedule. More

Target Missile Intercepted Over the Pacific Ocean During Missile Defense Exercise

(JUN 22) The Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing, the Joint Functional Component Command, Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Northern Command and the U.S. Navy completed an integrated exercise of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation's Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). More

Sea Surface Height

SARAL and Jason-2 sea surface height

The height of the surface of the world's oceans is revealed in this recent image created from data from India's SARAL and NASA's Jason-2 satellites. The highest areas are shown in red and the lowest areas are in blue. Jason-2 was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2008.

OCO-2's Move to Pad Slated for Saturday Morning

(JUN 13) The following is a NASA update regarding Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 pre-launch preparations at Vandenberg AFB:

"Engineers and technicians performed additional mechanical preparations so OCO-2 would be ready for its move to Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Currently inside the Astrotech payload processing facility at Vandenberg, the OCO-2 spacecraft will be taken to the launch pad in the early morning on Saturday and hoisted to the top of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket already assembled there. The carbon observatory will be encapsulated in its payload fairing June 20 for launch July 1 at 2:56:44 a.m. PDT."

Space Fence Contract Awarded

(JUN 4) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. --- The Air Force awarded a $914,699,474 contract to Lockheed Martin on June 2, 2014 to develop a system that will track objects in Earth's orbit with far greater confidence and fidelity.

The contract brings the program to final system development with the delivery of Space Fence Increment 1, or site 1, radar and a Space Fence operations center. The projected initial operational capability is fiscal year 2019. The contract also includes an option for procuring a second radar site.

The system will track space objects in Earth's orbit. According to program officials, it will improve space situational awareness by detecting and tracking objects such as commercial and military satellites and debris from break-up events. Coverage will extend down to just above the horizon to handle low-inclination orbits.

Space Fence is designed to provide assured coverage at low Earth orbit for objects as small as 10 centimeters. The system will also support cued searches and uncued surveillance at medium Earth orbit and above.

Los Angeles AFB

Preparing for Flight

Black Brant IX CHESS sounding rocket

The Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, or CHESS, sounding rocket gets ready for a brief trip into space to observe an area of star formation. The Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket was launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico early on the morning of May 24. Kevin France at the University of Colorado at Boulder reports that good data was received and the mission was a success. Image Credit: NASA/WSMR

SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster

(MAY 27) HAWTHORNE, Calif. – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft’s launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy. More

Construction to Begin on Vandenberg Payload

(MAY 19) NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.

NASA’s Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior. The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments never before used on Mars.

InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the central California coast near Lompoc, in March 2016. This will be the first interplanetary mission ever to launch from California. The mission will help inform the agency’s goal of sending a human mission to Mars in the 2030’s.

NASA

Wildfires

California and Baja California wildfires

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite detected fire activity north of San Diego, California, on 2014 May 15. MODIS also observed fires burning in the Baja California region of Mexico. Red outlines indicate hot spots where the sensor detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires. Winds blew thick plumes of smoke west over the Pacific Ocean. As of May 16, brush fires in California had burned thousands of acres, destroyed several homes, killed at least one person, and forced thousands of people to evacuate. Aqua was launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2002. Image and caption courtesy NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center

Public Viewing to be a Mission to Mars

(MAY 13) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope will zoom in on the planet Mars during a free, public viewing Friday, May 16, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening. In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

As Jupiter continues to get lower in the western sky, Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says the target this month will be Mars. “Last month, because of the steady skies, we were able to see, at high power, one of Mars’ polar caps,” he says.

Westmont College

NASA Carbon-Counting Satellite Arrives at Launch Site

Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite

A truck convoy carrying NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 spacecraft arrives at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base April 30. The observatory will undergo final tests and then be integrated atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket in preparation for a planned July 1 launch. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

(APR 30) A NASA spacecraft designed to make precise measurements of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to begin final preparations for launch. More

NASA's Spitzer, WISE Find Sun's Close, Cold Neighbor

(APR 25) WISE, an infrared satellite launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2009, and another NASA spacecraft have discovered a cold, dim, starlike-object a few light years from our sun. More

Red Moon

Total Lunar Eclipse

The United States was in a prime position to view a total lunar eclipse the night of April 14-15. Depending on local weather conditions, the public got a spectacular view as the moon's appearance changed from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and perhaps gray as the orb entered the Earth's shadow. Brian Day recorded the event in this image taken from San Jose, Calif. Image courtesy NASA Ames Research Center/Brian Day

Exoplanets Soon to Gleam in the Eye of NESSI

(APR 17) The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. More

Total Lunar Eclipse

(APR 13) If the weather cooperates, observers in the Southwest and beyond will be well situated to see a total lunar eclipse on the night of April 14-15.

As seen from California, the Moon will be well above the horizon for the entire event.

The circumstances of the eclipse are as follows:

Event PDT
Partial eclipse begins 10:58 p.m.
Totality begins 12:06 a.m.
Maximum eclipse 12:45 a.m.
Totality ends 1:22 a.m.
Partial eclipse ends 2:33 a.m.

All you will need to see the event are the unaided eye and perhaps a reclining chair. For the best view, use tripod-mounted binoculars or a small telescope at low magnification.

Throughout the night, the Moon will be accompanied by Mars. The orange-red planet will be shining brightly about 9 degrees to the Moon's upper right at maximum eclipse. Although the two objects will appear to be relatively close, Mars will actually be some 57 million miles behind the Moon.

Brian Webb

Atlas V Launched From Vandenberg

Atlas V / DMSP F-19 launch

An Atlas V rocket carrying the DMSP F-19 military weather satellite lifts off from south Vandenberg on April 3. Image copyright 2014, James Eberling. Used with permission

(APR 3) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg successfully launched the 19th U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 here Thursday, April 3, at 7:46 am PDT. More

Atlas Launch Visibility

(MAR 28) An Atlas V rocket carrying the DMSP F-19 military weather satellite is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg AFB on the morning of April 3. More

U.S. Weather Satellite Encapsulated for Launch

(MAR 19) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. - The U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance (ULA) team have successfully moved one step closer to the launching of the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) block 5D weather satellite. More

New Zealand Coast

Aqua satellite image of New Zeland

The waters near Christchurch, New Zealand glowed bright aquamarine on 2014 March 6, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite passed overhead and captured this true-color image. This bright color was most likely the result of sediment washed into the ocean from recent heavy rain and flooding. Aqua was launched aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg AFB in 2002. Image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

1st Boeing Built Inmarsat-5 Satellite
Completes On-Orbit Testing

(MAR 11) EL SEGUNDO Calif., March 11, 2014 -- Boeing's [NYSE: BA] first of four satellites for Inmarsat's Global Xpress network, has passed all of its on-orbit testing and has now been handed over to Inmarsat.

The high-speed mobile broadband satellite, launched on Dec. 8, will support a wide range of government and commercial customer uses, including in-flight connectivity, communications for vessels at sea, streaming video and other voice and data services.

Boeing is under contract to build four Inmarsat-5 satellites, with two more scheduled for completion and launch by the close of 2014. The fourth satellite is scheduled to be delivered in 2016. The Inmarsat-5 satellites carry a secondary payload that Boeing Commercial Satellite Services will lease to potential government customers through a reseller agreement with Inmarsat.

Boeing

DMSP: Another Global Utility

(MAR 4) SUITLAND, Maryland -- August marks the 52nd year of continuous service for the Air Force's longest running satellite program. More

Asteroid Flyby

Asteroid 2006 DP 14

Radar reveals the shape of near-Earth asteroid 2006 DP 14 in this image from the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. The view is one of a collage of radar images taken on February 11 when the 1,300 foot-long (400 meter) asteroid was about 2.6 million miles (4.2 million kilometers) from Earth. The object flew by Earth the previous day. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

NASA's Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds

(FEB 26) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. More

Telescope to Zoom in on Great Red Spot

(FEB 18) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Stargazers might enjoy views of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot at this month’s public viewing at the Westmont Observatory on Friday, Feb. 21, beginning after 6:30 p.m. and lasting several hours. The free event is held every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

“Jupiter will be near the top of the sky during the early hours of the public viewing, so we should get some clear and steady views of the planet and maybe the ancient storm,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor.

The Great Orion Nebula may also be a highlight of the viewing. “If the weather cooperates, we may be able to see all six of the Trapezium stars in this distant stellar nursery,” he says.

Last month, visitors enjoyed testing their color sense with several binary stars that Whittemore targeted. “One of my favorites was the green-reddish pair in the system, Eta Cassiopeiae,” he says. “These stars are about 20 light-years away and take 500 years to orbit one another. Although they may look like they are on top of one another in the telescope, the two stars of Eta Cassiopeiae are separated by more than twice the distance Pluto is from our sun.”

Westmont students and faculty use the Keck Telescope, a 24-inch reflector, to conduct astronomical research. The observatory sits between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex. Free parking is available near the baseball field.

Westmont College

Mars Layers

Mars rock layers

Bright layered deposits are visible in this Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image of the Ladon Valles region of Mars released by the University of Arizona on February 12. The view was acquired by the spacecraft's HiRISE camera which is operated by the University of Arizona. Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

ULA Marks 25th Anniversary of Delta II Rocket

(FEB 14) Centennial, Colo. – Today, United Launch Alliance (ULA) commemorates the 25th anniversary of the proven industry workhorse rocket, the Delta II. More

NASA Announces CubeSat Candidates

(FEB 6) NASA has selected 16 small satellites from nine states to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets planned to launch in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The proposed CubeSats come from universities across the country, a primary school, non-profit organizations and NASA field centers.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites measure about 4 inches on each side, have a volume of about 1 quart and weigh less than 3 pounds.

After launch, the satellites will conduct technology demonstration, educational research or science missions. The selected spacecraft are eligible for launch after final negotiations, depending on the availability of a flight opportunity. The organizations sponsoring satellites include:

-- NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, N.M.
-- The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, Calif.
-- University of California, Los Angeles
-- Utah State University, Logan (2 CubeSats)

NASA

Trifid Nebula

WISE spacecraft image of Trifid Nebula

A storm of stars is brewing in the Trifid nebula, as seen in this view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The Trifid nebula is located 5,400 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.Colors in this image represent different wavelengths of infrared light detected by WISE. The WISE spacecraft was launched from Vandenberg AFB aboard a Delta II rocket in 2009 December. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Lockheed Martin MUOS Satellite Tests Show Extensive Reach in Polar Communications Capability

(JAN 31) A California-built military satellite communications system may help satisfy the growing demand for communications in the arctic. More

Modification to Extend Life of GPS Satellites

(JAN 22) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. - Since October 2012, U.S. Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has been analyzing, characterizing, testing and implementing modified battery charge control rates across the GPS IIR/IIR-M fleet. This fleet of 19 satellites comprises more than half of the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation. As of November 15, 2013, the USAF's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS) completed the modification, which will extend the life of these satellites' operational capability.

Batteries are projected to be the primary life-limiting component when GPS IIR/IIR-M vehicles are past their design life. Analysis by SMC, The Aerospace Corporation and Lockheed Martin indicated that reducing the charge rates during solstice season would add an average of one to two years of life per space vehicle. SMC GPS directorate and 2SOPS will closely monitor the real-world results of this project to ensure they are in line with the expected gains. In total, it is anticipated that the modification will add more than 27 years of cumulative life across the GPS IIR/IIR-M fleet.

Los Angeles AFB

Colby Fire

NOAA satellite image of Colby Fire

Persistent Santa Ana winds resulted in dangerous fire-weather conditions in California during the past week. The Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the Colby Fire northeast of Los Angeles on January 16 at 20:30 UTC. Image courtesy of NASA/NOAA

Observatory Welcomes Jupiter in January

(JAN 15) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The gas giant Jupiter will be the star performer at this month’s public viewing at the Westmont Observatory on Friday, Jan. 17, beginning after 6:30 p.m. and lasting several hours. The free event is held every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

“Jupiter will split the four Galilean Moons with Callisto, Europa and Ganymede on one side of the planet and Io on the other side,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “It will be interesting to see this alignment as Callisto, the outermost of the Galilean Moons, lies very far from Jupiter.”

Westmont College

Recently Reactivated NASA Spacecraft Spots Its First New Asteroid

(JAN 7) A NASA astronomy satellite launched from Vandenberg AFB in 2009 spots a never-before-seen asteroid following the craft's reactivation. More

Active Region

Sun Active Region 1944

With the Sun currently at the peak of its 11-year cycle, our star's surface is populated with several spots or "active regions." Rik Hill imaged one such region, AR 1944, on January 3 from Tucson, Arizona using a 3.5-inch telescope and an electronic camera. AR 1944 unleased a coronal mass ejection (CME) in the general direction of Earth on January 4 and will probably release an M-class solar flare on January 5. Image Copyright 2014, Richard Hill. Used with permission.

First 2014 Asteroid Discovered: Update

(JAN 3) PASADENA, Calif . - Several sources confirm that the first discovered asteroid in 2014, designated 2014 AA, entered Earth's atmosphere late Jan. 1 (Jan. 2 Universal time) over the mid-Atlantic Ocean. More

Minuteman III Launches From Vandenberg

Minuteman III launch

A Minuteman III strategic missile arcs skyward during a test launch from Vandenberg AFB on December 17. In this time exposure, a statue of Ronald Reagan is silohuetted by the full moon as observers in the foreground watch the launch. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sergeant Vincent Mouzon

(DEC 17) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 4:36 a.m. here Tuesday from Launch Facility-04 on north Vandenberg.

Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the launch decision authority.

"This was our twelfth and final launch for 2013," said McArthur. "I am proud of this team of professionals who worked so hard to make this mission a success. Now the team can take some time to enjoy the holidays with family and friends; after the holidays we'll start preparing for a busy 2014 launch schedule."

Vandenberg AFB

SpaceX to Negotiate for
Use of Historic Launch Pad

(DEC 13) WASHINGTON, D.C. - NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to begin negotiations on a lease to use and operate historic Launch Complex (LC) 39A at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Permitting use and operation of this valuable national asset by a private-sector, commercial space partner will ensure its continued viability and allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities.

NASA will begin working with SpaceX to negotiate the terms of its lease for LC-39A. During those ongoing negotiations, NASA will not be able to discuss details of the pending lease agreement.

Since the late 1960s, Kennedy's launch pads 39 A and B have served as the starting point for America's most significant human spaceflight endeavors -- Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and all 135 space shuttle missions. LC-39A is the pad where Apollo 11 lifted off from on the first manned moon landing in 1969, as well as launching the first space shuttle mission in 1981 and the last in 2011.

NASA

Atlas V Launched From Vandenberg

Atlas V / NROL-39 launch

An Atlas V rocket carrying a classified payload and several small satellites heads downrange following liftoff from Vandenberg AFB on December 5. Dimitrii Zagorodnov recorded the launch in this 155-second time exposure from Santa Barbara, Calif. Image Copyright 2013 Dimitrii Zagorodnov. Used with permission.

(DEC 6) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launched by Team Vandenberg from Space Launch Complex-3 here Thursday at 11:14:30 PST.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"This was our eleventh launch for 2013 and I couldn't be more proud of this team of professionals," said Balts.

"This new capability represents our commitment to enhanced competitive launch services in support of national defense."

Vandenberg AFB

Impressionistic Saturn

Saturn

Saturn's clouds take on the appearance of an impressionist's painting in this near infrared Cassini spacecraft image released November 18. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 994,000 miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Saturn. The Image scale is 57 miles (92 kilometers) per pixel. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Small Satellites on a BIG Mission: Air Force Launches High-Tech NanoSats

(NOV 20) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif . - In its 60 year history, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has successfully launched some of the largest and most sophisticated satellites ever created. More

Peering Inside Haiyan

Super Typhoon Haiyan

Eleven years after its launch from Vandenberg AFB, NASA'a Aqua spacecraft continues to monitor Earth's environment. The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on the spacecraft captured this infrared image of Super Typhoon Haiyan at 8:59 p.m. PST Nov. 7. The storm’s coldest cloud-top temperatures and areas of heaviest rainfall are depicted by the brightest shades of purple. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

High Solar Activity

(NOV 8) This week, Jupiter-sized sunspot AR1890 unleashed two brief but intense X-class solar flares and numerous M-class solar flares. More eruptions are in the offing as the sunspot turns to directly face Earth over the weekend.

SpaceWeather.com

Spotty Sun

Sun spots

Increased solar activity in late October was accompanied by numerous sun spots as shown in this Big Bear Solar Observatory GONG+ instrument image taken on October 27. The increased solar activity was accompanied by excellent high frequency radio conditions. Image Credit: Big Bear Solar Observatory/New Jersey Institute of Technology

DMSP F-19 Weathers Launch Preparation

(OCT 22) SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Air Force's latest weather satellite may seem like a silent and static piece of technology as it stands in a California hangar in preparation for a springtime launch. More

NASA Rover Confirms Mars Origin of Some Meteorites

(OCT 17) PASADENA, Calif. -- Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet. More

Diamond 'Super-Earth' May Not be Quite as Precious, UA Graduate Student Finds

(OCT 8) TUCSON, Ariz. – A planet 40 light years from our solar system, believed to be the first-ever discovered planet to consist largely of diamond, may in fact be of less exquisite nature, according to new research led by University of Arizona astronomy graduate student Johanna Teske. More

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Finds Ingredient of Household Plastic in Space

(SEP 30) PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected propylene, a chemical used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers and other consumer products, on Saturn's moon Titan. More

Vandenberg Launches First SpaceX Rocket

Pacific Ocean surface height from OSTM/Jason-2

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg AFB on September 29. The launch was SpaceX's first-ever from the West Coast. U.S. Air Force Photo/Michael Peterson

(SEP 29) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg launched its first-ever SpaceX launch from Space Launch Complex-4 here Sunday at 9 a.m.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority.

"I am truly honored to work with such an amazing team here at Vandenberg," said Balts. "With safety at the forefront during all launch operations, we highlighted our mission three times in one week, culminating in today's historic launch with SpaceX. What I have seen in the past few months as Wing Commander is a true testament to the professionalism and dedication the men and women of Vandenberg have toward our mission."

30th Space Wing's 1st Air and Space Test Squadron was the lead for all launch site certification activities at Vandenberg for SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle New Entrant. Under the authority of the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Squadron evaluated SpaceX's flight and ground systems, processes and procedures for this inaugural space launch campaign for the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket.

Vandenberg AFB

Vandenberg Launches Another
Minuteman III Test Missile

(SEP 26) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 3:33 a.m. here Thursday from Launch Facility-9 on north Vandenberg.

Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, was the launch decision authority.

"It is so exciting to see our mission in action," said McArthur. "We have the potential to launch three times this week, and the last time we did that was back in July of 2004. I am proud of this team. Everyone came together despite the challenges thrown our way to support a second safe and successful launch this week, and nine so far for the year."

Vandenberg AFB

First SpaceX Launch from
Vandenberg Scheduled

(SEP 25) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Team Vandenberg is scheduled to launch its first-ever SpaceX launch from Space Launch Complex-4 here Sunday with a targeted launch window beginning at 9 a.m. PDT.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority.

"Our mission is to provide unique capabilities for assured access to and from space for our nation," said Balts. "This is a huge stepping stone for Vandenberg and our SpaceX mission partners and I am impressed with the amount of innovation, dedication and professionalism that was put into making this historic event happen."

30th Space Wing's 1st Air and Space Test Squadron is the lead for all launch site certification activities at Vandenberg for SpaceX as an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle New Entrant. Under the authority of the Space and ground systems, processes and procedures for this inaugural space launch campaign for the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket.

"This is historic event for Vandenberg AFB and we are excited to be a part of it," said Lt. Col. Joseph Imwalle, 1ASTS commander. "The Squadron is committed to making the new process of EELV certification successful and to achieving the vision of more affordable operational spacelift capabilities for the Department of Defense without compromising reliability."

Vandenberg AFB

Second Minuteman III Launch
Scheduled for the Week

(SEP 24) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for Thursday between 3:01 and 9:01 a.m. from Launch Facility-9 here on north Vandenberg.

Col. Brent McArthur, 30th Space Wing vice commander, is the launch decision authority.

"We are excited to support another launch here Thursday," said McArthur. "Although this week may seem challenging with the number of launches, we are eager and ready to continue to support our customers and achieve another safe and successful launch for the Western Range."

Vandenberg AFB

Minuteman III Test Missile Launches from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

(SEP 22) BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test at 3:01 a.m. (PDT) today from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron, included members from the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, N.D., and 90 Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

“The test launch is the culmination of months of hard work and preparation.” said Col. Lance Kawane, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The invaluable data we collect helps us to validate the functionality and performance of system components.”

The ICBM test launch program supports U.S. strategic deterrence policy as outlined in the 2010 Department of Defense Nuclear Posture Review, by demonstrating the operational credibility of the Minuteman III.

Agencies across the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy will use the data collected from this mission to ensure a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. The United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent is a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and friends.

The next test launch of the Minuteman III from Vandenberg is scheduled for Sept. 26.

U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command

Minuteman III Launch Scheduled

(SEP 18) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - An operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled for Sunday between 3:01 and 9:01 a.m. from Launch Facility-10 here on north Vandenberg.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority. "2013 has proved to be a busy year for the Western Range," said Balts. "Whether we are supporting a mid-morning launch of a Delta-IV or an early morning Minuteman III launch, public safety is always our number one priority."

Vandenberg AFB

HARVEST MOON STARGAZING AT WESTMONT

(SEP 17) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope will aim for a double star and two globular clusters during a free, public viewing Friday, Sept. 20, beginning at about 7:30 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) 5656272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

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.

Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says he hopes to turn the 24inch reflector telescope toward the blue-gold double star Albireo, which will be near zenith an hour after sunset. “The two stars circle one another every 100,000 years,” he says. “It is interesting to note that the light you see from this binary system is 400 years old. You are looking at light that has traveled since the time of Galileo.”

Westmont College

La Nada

Pacific Ocean surface height from OSTM/Jason-2

The latest image of sea surface heights in the Pacific Ocean from NASA's Jason-2 satellite shows that the equatorial Pacific Ocean is now in an extended neutral, or "La Nada" state. "La Nadas" make long-range climate forecasting more difficult due to their greater unpredictability. Yellows and reds indicate areas where waters are relatively warmer and have expanded above normal sea level, while blues and purple areas show where waters are relatively colder and sea level is lower than normal. The near-normal conditions are shown as areas shaded in green. Jason-2 was launched from Vandenberg AFB aboard a Delta II rocket in 2008 June. Image Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech/Ocean Surface Topography Team

NASA Spacecraft Embarks on Historic Journey Into Interstellar Space

(SEP 12) PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. More

NMSU Professor's Efforts Prompt Bill to Establish National Park on Moon

(SEP 3) LAS CRUCES, NM - A movement to protect lunar artifacts undertaken by a New Mexico State University professor and her students more than a decade ago has sparked the idea in Congress to protect lunar landing sites. More

Delta IV-Heavy Launched from Vandenberg

Delta IV-Heavy NROL-65 launch

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifts off from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg AFB. Designated NROL-65, the mission is in support of national defense. Photo by Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance

(AUG 28) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -A United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload launched by team Vandenberg from Space Launch Complex-6 here Wednesday at 11:03 am PST.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"The teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, the 4th Space Launch Squadron, the National Reconnaissance Office, United Launch Alliance, and numerous other agencies was outstanding," said Balts. "This is Vandenberg's equivalent of an air show or open house and our opportunity to share with the public. We are lucky enough to do this 10-11 times a year."

This was the second Delta IV-Heavy for Vandenberg, with the first launch occurring Jan. 20, 2011 and is the largest rocket ever to launch from the West Coast of the United States.

Vandenberg AFB

Delta IV-Heavy Launch Scheduled

(AUG 23) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A United Launch Alliance Delta IV-Heavy rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload is scheduled to be launched by team Vandenberg from Space Launch Complex-6 here Wednesday at 10:52 a.m. PST.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander will be the launch decision authority.

“This will be the second Delta IV-Heavy launched from Vandenberg,” said Balts. “We are excited to showcase this national capability for heavy lift on the Western Range in support of the NRO. This is what makes Vandenberg unique because we provide the full spectrum of space lift capabilities from smaller launch vehicles up to and including the Delta IV-Heavy.”

The 4th Space Launch Squadron is in charge of mission assurance and safety for this launch operation.

“This is my first launch as the new 4th SLS commander,” said Lt. Col. James Bodnar, 4th SLS commander. “We work very closely with the customer throughout the whole process to ensure safety measures and milestones are met at various stages in planning.”

This is the second Delta IV-Heavy launched from Vandenberg with the first launch taking off Jan. 20, 2011.

The rocket will carry a national security payload for the NRO.

Vandenberg AFB

Dream Chaser Tested

Dream Chaser spacecraft

A pickup truck pulls Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spacecraft during range and taxi tow testing at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Calif. in early August. The tests were performed to prove the spacecraft's braking and landing systems could handle upcoming captive-carry and approach-landing tests at Dryden. Dream Chaser is a spaceplane being developed to carry people to and from low Earth orbit. Image Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich

Stargazers to View Smoke Ring Nebula

(AUG 13) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont’s powerful Keck telescope will feature glimpses of the Moon, Saturn and the Ring Nebula during a free, public viewing Friday, Aug. 16, beginning at about 8 p.m. at the Westmont Observatory. 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 viewing lasts for several hours. 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 canceled.

The Moon, a bit more than 10 days old in its current cycle, will lie fairly low in the sky, skimming across the top of Sagittarius. “The wonderful crater Copernicus will be out of the shadows this evening and, if the seeing is good, the public should be able to see some of the mountainous details in the center of this large crater,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor.

Westmont College

SpaceX is Awarded Launch of German Radar
Reconnaissance Satellite System

Falcon 9 rockets will deliver three-satellite SARah Constellation that will serve German Ministry of Defense

(AUG 8) Hawthorne, CA – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will provide the launch services for Germany’s second-generation radar reconnaissance satellite system. The satellites, provided by OHB System AG and Astrium GmbH, will replace the current constellation and will be delivered to orbit by two Falcon 9 rockets in 2018 and 2019.

"SpaceX looks forward to working with OHB and Astrium, and we appreciate their confidence in SpaceX to reliably deliver these satellites to orbit,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO. “These missions are very meaningful for SpaceX as the first contracted for a European government.”

OHB will build two passive-antenna synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, and Astrium GmbH will build a larger, phased-array-antenna satellite under contract for OHB. The three-satellite constellation will replace the current OHB-built five-satellite SAR-Lupe constellation.

SpaceX

Defense Weather Satellite 19 Transported to Vandenberg AFB

DMSP F19 satellite arrives at Vandenberg AFB

The U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman team oversee delivery and preparation of the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) weather satellite to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on August 1st, 2013, for a 2014 launch. An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, operated by the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., transported DMSP, Flight 19, from Sunnyvale to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. DMSP F19 will undergo final launch preparations, encapsulation and transport to Space Launch Complex 3 East at Vandenberg AFB over the next 250 days and is on track for a scheduled March 2014 launch. U.S. Air Force photo by Sarah Corrice

(AUG 2) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. - The U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman team successfully delivered the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), block 5D3, weather satellite to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where it will be prepared for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. More

NASA's WISE Finds Mysterious Centaurs May Be Comets

(JUL 25) PASADENA, Calf. - The true identity of centaurs, the small celestial bodies orbiting the sun between Jupiter and Neptune, is one of the enduring mysteries of astrophysics. More

California-built Satellite Lifts-off

MUOS-2 satellite launch

The U.S. Navy's second Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-2) satellite lifts-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard an Atlas V rocket on July 19. MUOS-2 is part of a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system designed to improve beyond-line-of-sight communications for U.S. forces on the move. MUOS-2 was built at Lockheed-Martin's Sunnyvale, Calif. facility. Photo by Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance

Telescope Features Primetime Saturn Views

(JUL 16) SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Westmont's powerful Keck Telescope will aim for the rings of Saturn and a globular cluster during a free, public viewing Friday, July 19, 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 canceled.

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.

Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says he hopes to turn the 24-inch reflector telescope toward Saturn and its Cassini Division, the gap between the A and B rings. The viewing may also feature the Great Globular Cluster, M13, in Hercules. The cluster, one of the best-known in the northern hemisphere, consists of about 300,000 stars.

Westmont College

Third Advanced EHF Satellite Delivered

(JUL 11) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The Air Force and Lockheed Martin team successfully delivered the third Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., where it will be prepared for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle.

AEHF-3 completed its California-to-Florida journey July 10 aboard an Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft operated by the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, California.

Over the next several months, the satellite will undergo final launch preparations, including encapsulation in the rocket's payload fairing, and transport to Launch Complex 41 at CCAFS for integration with the Atlas V. AEHF-3 is scheduled to launch in fall 2013.

AEHF is a joint service satellite communications system that will provide survivable, global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets. The AEHF system is the follow-on to the Milstar system, augmenting, improving and expanding the Department of Defense's Military Satellite Communications architecture.

AEHF-3 was procured from Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company by the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate, part of the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center. The MILSATCOM Systems Directorate plans, acquires and sustains space-based global communications in support of the president, secretary of defense and combat forces. The entire MILSATCOM enterprise consists of satellites, terminals and control stations and provides communications for more than 16,000 air, land and sea platforms.

Los Angeles AFB

Missile Defense Test Launches

Vandenberg AFB Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) launch

A Ground-based Interceptor climbs into the sky on July 5 as part of a $200 million missile defense test. Greg Peters took this view of the launch from Orcutt, Calif. using his iPhone. Copyright 2013, Greg Peters. Used with permission.

(JUL 5) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - A Ground-based Interceptor, an element of the overall Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, was launched from North Vandenberg Friday at 11:35 a.m. PDT by 30th Space Wing officials, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command.

Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, was the launch decision authority.

"Both the 30th Space Wing and the Missile Defense Agency worked hard to get the team ready for today's launch," said Balts. "This was my first MDA launch as the wing commander and I was impressed by the professionalism each member of this team embodied."

The operationally-configured interceptor is designed to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile warhead as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System, according to a MDA spokesperson.

Vandenberg AFB

Missile Defense Test Scheduled

(JUL 2) VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - The 30th Space Wing, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Northern Command are scheduled to conduct a flight test involving the launch of a Ground-Base Interceptor July 5, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3:37 p.m. PDT from North base.

The interceptor will defend against a ballistic missile target launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, is the Launch Decision Authority.

"The 30th Space Wing has been working closely with our Missile Defense Agency partners here at Vandenberg for months to make this launch a safe and successful one." said Balts. "It's an honor for us to be a part of a test mission so critical to our national security."

The operationally-configured interceptor is designed to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile warhead as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System, according to an MDA spokesperson.

Vandenberg AFB

Pegasus Launch a Success

(JUN 27) VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. - The 30th Space Wing provided range support for the launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket carrying a NASA payload, which launched at 7:27:52 p.m. PDT, Thursday.

The rocket was launched from an L-1011 aircraft and carried NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph spacecraft into orbit.

The launch decision authority for this mission was Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander.

"Our mission partners and the wing put in a lot of hard work for every launch," said Balts. "It takes a group effort to make each launch mission successful. I want to thank our launch partners and our 30th SW team for working together to provide access to space for this important science-gathering satellite."

The 30th SW provided launch permission, range safety, area clearing and weather support for the launch.

Vandenberg AFB

Pegasus Launch Visibility

(JUN 25) Given clear skies and bit of luck, observers over a wide area may be able to see some portion of Thursday's offshore NASA satellite launch. Launch is targeted for 7:27:34 p.m. PDT during a launch window that extends from 7:25:04 to 7:30:04 p.m.

A converted airliner will carry a Pegasus XL rocket containing the IRIS satellite from the Orbital Sciences Corp. facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base to the launch point high above the Pacific about 70 miles southwest of Monterey. When the L-1011 reaches a three-dimensional point in space at 36.000° north, 123.000° west, and 39,000 feet, it will release the rocket. After a five-second fall, the Pegasus first stage will ignite and IRIS will begin a 13-minute climb into orbit.

Observers along the California coast between Vandenberg AFB and Monterey may be able to see the former Air Canada jumbo jet and perhaps one or more chase planes as they fly parallel to the coast on their way to and from the launch point.

For sky watchers in California and neighboring states, the launch takes place before sunset. Under very good conditions, the launch may be visible through binoculars for a distance of up to 150 miles. The best location to view the launch will probably be near Monterey. Coastal low clouds and fog are a problem this time of year, so a viewing site at least 2,000 feet above sea level is preferable.

After sunset, sunlight will illuminate the remnants of the rocket's exhaust at high altitudes. The resulting display could be visible to the naked eye in California, Arizona, and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Mexico.

If you plan to watch the launch from the mountains, remember that mountain roads often have steep drop-offs and no guardrails. Not paying attention to your driving for only a second could kill you. Also, watch out for loose gravel on the road and be very careful when you back up your car.

Brian Webb

Preparing Pegasus

Pegasus XL rocket

An Orbital Sciences launch team monitors a Pegasus XL rocket as the vehicle and payload are moved from a hangar onto a transporter at Vandenberg AFB. The rocket will be launched June 26 from a jumbo jet flying above the Pacific some 70 miles southwest of Monetery, Calif. and carry NASA's IRIS spacecraft into orbit. Image courtesy NASA

SMC, SpaceX Sign Agreement

(JUN 11) LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. --The Space and Missile Systems Center has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, as part of the company's effort to certify its Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch System for National Security Space (NSS) missions. More

Geomagnetic Storms

(JUN 7) Last night, Earth passed through a region of south-pointing magnetism in the solar wind. This triggered a G2-class (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm. At its peak, the storm spawned Northern Lights in the USA as far south as Kansas. More auroras are in the offing as a CME is set to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on June 8-9.

SpaceWeather.com

Planetary Trio

Comet Pan-STARRS

Three planets form a perfect triangle low in the west on the evening of May 26. The Webmaster recorded the event, known as a conjunction, from Ventura County, Calif. using a Nikon D70 digital SLR and 50mm lens. Visible are Venus (bottom), Jupiter (left), and Mercury (upper right). The exposure was 13 seconds at ISO 200 and f/5.6. Copyright 2013, Brian Webb

Aurora Surprise: Northern Lights in the USA

(JUN 1) Last night, Northern Lights spilled across the Canadian border and descended into the contiguous United States as far south as Colorado and Nebraska. The display was caused by the unexpected arrival of an interplanetary shock wave on May 31st.

SpaceWeather.com

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."

Vandenberg AFB

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.

Westmont College

Springs Fire

Terra spacecraft view of Springs fire, california

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

IRIS spacecraft arrives at Vandenberg AFB

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.

SpaceWeather.com

Flapping in the Wind

Curiosity parachute flapping in the martian 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

Elusive Comet

Comet Pan-STARRS

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. More

Shark Bay

Terra spacecraft view of Shark Bay, Australia

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 Science Team

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.

Lockheed Martin

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

Russian Meteor

DMSP satellite image of Russian meteor

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 State University

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 system.

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 implementation.

NASA

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 authority.

"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.

Vandenberg AFB

Drilling Bedrock

Drill holes in Mars bedrock

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 courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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 sea level.

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.

Brian Webb

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

Ground Based Interceptor launch

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 Authority.

"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.

Vandenberg AFB

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. More

Titan Lakes

Lakes on Titan

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: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

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.

SpaceWeather.com

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