L-42 days (February 8) – OA-6 Cygnus spacecraft nears launch readiness.

With just over a month to go before launch, technicians at the Space Station Processing Facility continue to load cargo into the Cygnus cargo module for the OA-6 mission. Over 7,700 pounds of supplies are being brought up to the International Space Station on Cygnus.

Cargo loading is completed by placing the module horizontally on a support jig that can rotate 360 degrees. When one side of the spacecraft’s interior is loaded, it is rotated 90 degrees and the process starts again.

The Cargo Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center January 9, with the Service Module arriving three weeks later on January 25.

Launch of OA-6 was originally scheduled for 3:08 am on Thursday, March 10th. However, additional processing times required the launch to be pushed back to March 20th.

It will mark the second and final Cygnus spacecraft to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Atlas was selected by Orbital ATK to launch OA-4 and OA-6 while their Antares booster undergoes return to flight preparations. OA-5 will be the return to flight of that vehicle, which is based out of Wallops Island, Virginia.

NASA’s newest spacecraft, Orion, will be launching into space for the first time on Dec. 4, 2014. Orion will fly to orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. The Delta IV Heavy rocket is the newest member of the Delta launch system family, and is highest capacity rocket in the world, able to launch 50,000 pounds of payload into orbit. The rocket is topped with the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft, attached to its service module. This first spaceflight will test critical systems on Orion, being built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. 

For more information about Orion and its first space flight, click here


This morning, an Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a US Navy communications satellite into space. 

It was another smooth take off for the United Launch Alliance, the company that manufactures the Atlas V. It was a particularly beautiful launch as well; the rocket left a spectacular multi-colored trail in its wake as it ascended into space


August 13, 2014

      For my money, there’s no better show than a rocket launch. This Atlas V launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base today, carrying a DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 commercial earth observation satellite.

     I photographed 2.5 miles away from Space Launch Complex 3, which is the closest I’ve been to a rocket assent. The sound was incredible. It wasn’t as loud as I expected; though you don’t really hear the sound as much as you feel it. From my vantage point, with a large berm separating me from the pad, I heard the rocket before I saw it. First, as the sound travelled through the berm, I heard a deep growl. Then, as the rocket crested the hill, the growl grew more present, accompanied by a piercing crackling sound; all from the single RD-180 engine. Best sound I’ve ever heard.

     The rocket gracefully gained speed as I snapped away, starting its contrail just as it passed through the area of maximum dynamic pressure. We had a fairly dry day, and the rocket ceased to create a contrail nearly as quickly as it started. As the rocket sailed downrange, we watched for staging, but it went out of sight just beforehand. Though, we could still hear that same rumble, just quieter. Eventually, the sound went away, and we packed it up. Wonderful. Thanks, United Launch Alliance, for such a great show. 

Elon Musk has declared war on the United Launch Alliance (ULA). At a press conference in Washington D.C., the entrepreneur declared that his company SpaceX is filing suit in the Court of Federal Claims to protest the monopoly that currently conducts Air Force and spy agency satellite launches. SpaceX wants to start competing with the ULA for launch contracts as soon as this year.

“The ULA rockets are basically four times more expensive,” Musk said Friday. “This contract is costing us taxpayers billions of dollars for no reason.”


United Launch Alliance joins tumblr!!

America’s Ride to Space now has a tumblr! Last night, the United Launch Alliance announced on their twitter feed that they have started a tumblog!

ULA is  the manufacturer and operator of the U.S. fleet of launch vehicles. Every Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V rocket is provided by ULA! They’re the guys and gals responsible for ensuring the successful launch of NASA’s missions. ULA rockets have sent rovers to the surface of Mars, a probe leaving the solar system, orbiters to almost every planet in the solar system, and missions to comets, dwarf planets and asteroids.  

ULA is also partnering with other U.S. Companies to help return American astronauts to orbit domestically. The Atlas V is being man-rated for Boeing’s CST-100 capsule, which will bring up to seven people to LEO and the International Space Station. 

They are also the sole launch provider permitted to launch high-security classified payloads into orbit on behalf of the U.S. Government. 

They’re just getting started posting content, but I’m looking forward to what they’ll post for launches and mission updates. Also, they’re an incredibly nice group of people, and the individuals I’ve met and worked with at the Cape have been inspiring and knowledgeable. 

If you’re just as excited as I am, join me in welcoming them by checking out their blog, DiscoverULA, here!

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Launches

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket streaks away from Space Launch Complex 41 into the night sky over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-K, TDRS-K, to orbit.

The TDRS-K spacecraft is part of the next-generation series in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, a constellation of space-based communication satellites providing tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services.

Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

…And the Atlas V Clears the Tower by NASA on The Commons on Flickr.

Tramite Flickr:
Collection: LRO and LCROSS Image Gallery
Title: …And the Atlas V Clears the Tower

Description: The Atlas V/Centaur rocket climbs up and away from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Safely tucked inside the protective payload fairing are NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. June 18, 2009 Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Date: 6/18/09
Source: www.archive.org/details/361504main_200906180001HQ_full
Identifier: 361504main_200906180 001HQ_full

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft onboard launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, March 12, 2015, Florida. NASA’s MMS mission studies the mystery of how magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect, explosively releasing energy via a process known as magnetic reconnection. MMS consists of four identical spacecraft that work together to provide the first three-dimensional view of this fundamental process, which occurs throughout the universe.

Atlas V for NASA mission gets an added boost

Earlier today, United Launch Alliance technicians finished installing the two AJ-60A solid rocket motors that will help loft the MMS mission into orbit next month.

The nearly 56-foot long boosters each provide 285,500 pounds of force and will burn for the first 1 minute and 34 seconds of the flight. MMS will require two of these motors for its flight, and are attached to the bottom third of the Atlas Common Core Booster, seen to the left on the image inside the Vertical Integration Facility.

Assembly on the Atlas rocket continues tomorrow when technicians will install the Centaur second stage atop the CBC.

MMS will use an Atlas V rocket flying on its 421 configuration. This means that the booster will have a four-meter wide payload fairing, two solid rocket motors attached to the side of the booster, and a single engine Centaur on the upper stage.


A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the Orbital ATK CRS-4 commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 4:44 p.m. EST. The Cygnus resupply spacecraft will deliver more than 7,700 pounds of essential crew supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to the station.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


Video I quickly put together of today’s Delta IV launch!

Landsat data continuity mission prelaunch

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft onboard is seen on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) mission is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat program’s 40-year data record of monitoring the Earth’s landscapes from space. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch Feb. 11.

Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

T-3 hours (2:33pm)

The flight of OA-4 has been rescheduled for 5:33 pm EST tonight, December 4, 2015.

Although weather is still a concern for tonight’s attempt, managers from ULA, NASA, Orbital ATK and the 45th Weather Squadron are hopeful there will be acceptable conditions long enough to launch.

On the mission’s first attempt yesterday, high winds, thick clouds and rain forced managers to scrub the launch. This ended the Atlas V rocket’s three year, 26 consecutive mission streak of launching on the first fueling.

In the image above, the Atlas V rocket with Cygnus spacecraft is seen at sunset on the eve of its initial launch attempt, December 2.

Live coverage of today’s launch will begin at 4:30 EST on NASA Television.

Photo Credit: For All Mankind.


(11/1/2013) – PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Following arrival at Port Canaveral, Fla., the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage and Centaur upper stage that will boost the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, spacecraft into orbit is being transported to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center for checkout in preparation for launch. TDRS-L is the second of three next-generation satellites designed to ensure vital operational continuity for the NASA Space Network. It is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 atop an Atlas V rocket in January 2014. The current Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system consists of eight in-orbit satellites distributed to provide near continuous information relay service to missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station. For more information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/content/tracking-and-data-relay-satellite-tdrs/ Photo credit: NASA/ Kim Shiflett