While driving down Interstate 5 through Santa Ana, California, you may have spotted this rocket. Even for space fans, identifying this vehicle may be difficult. It is a rare Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) for the short lived Delta III rocket. This DCSS has a home at Discovery Cube Orange County, where she acts as an effective billboard for this educational museum. This equipment is appropriately placed near Huntington Beach where this particular payload fairing was manufactured.

     On August 27, 1998, the Delta 259 mission lifted off from Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, marking the first flight of a Delta III, carrying the Galaxy 10 communication satellite. During the burn of its first stage, a design flaw in the rocket’s guidance system caused it to violently diverge from its planned trajectory and begin to break up. During the breakup process, the flight termination system was activated by the range safety officer, causing what was left of the rocket to explode. The Galaxy 10 satellite could be seen that night as a flaming ball streaking down until it spectacularly exploded as it hit the Atlantic Ocean. 

     The second flight of a Delta III would take place on May 5, 1999, as the Delta 269 mission flew from the same pad. Thanks to a manufacturing flaw in the Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 engine, the second stage burn was cut short, causing the stage to tumble into a useless orbit. The Orion 3 communication satellite was written off and a second payload was lost.

     A final flight of the Delta III would take place on August 23, 2000, with the Delta 280 mission, which carried a dummy payload called DM-F3. This time, the flight was a success, but it was too late for the Delta III. The commercial satellite industry took a steep dive in the late 1990s. The more powerful Delta IV was just a few years away from its first flight, and Boeing was pursuing a more conservative Delta II Heavy rocket. These factors, combined with the failures, caused the Delta III to be quietly shelved. Some spare parts from the program were flown on various Delta II and Delta IV flights, and in the late 2000s, Boeing donated this DCSS to Discovery Cube Orange County where it stands today, greeting passersby on Interstate 5.

NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station on January 6, 2008. Lunar Prospector was a spin-stabilized spacecraft designed to provide the first global maps of the Moon’s surface and its gravitational magnetic fields, as well as look for ice near the lunar poles.

by NASA on The Commons

NASA Shortlists Three Landing Sites for Mars 2020

Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. It will also prepare a collection of samples for possible return to Earth by a future mission.

Bruh…. Amita looks fuckin boss….

I might revisit the helm but yeah here she is in her armor. She takes out all her earrings and shit cuz they’re a hindrance in a fight, and she gets her mass of hair under control by twizzling it.

DEFINITELY need to revisit this on the computer. I’m loving those pauldrons MMMMMM


June 1966, The Apollo 1 astronauts during water egress training.

Apollo 1, initially designated AS-204, was the first manned mission of the United States Apollo program, which had as its ultimate goal a manned lunar landing. The low Earth orbital test of the Apollo Command/Service Module never made its target launch date of February 21, 1967. 

A cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test on January 27 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 killed all three crew members—Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee—and destroyed the Command Module (CM). 

The name Apollo 1, chosen by the crew, was officially retired by NASA in commemoration of them on April 24, 1967.


     Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida recently saw an event that caused quite a stir. I hope said event will soon become commonplace. On April 8, 2016, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Cargo Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-8 resupply mission to the International Space Station. After stage separation, the first stage made a successful powered descent and landing from space. This the second time SpaceX has successfully recovered a booster in this way, but the first landed at sea. To allow for higher fuel margins for the return trip, the Falcon landed at sea on a drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You”, named in reference to the book “The Player of Games”, in honor of the author Iain M. Banks.

     After landing atop the ship, the entire enterprise was slowly towed back inland where it arrived at Port Canaveral. The arrival was met with quite a fanfare from the general public. In the following days, the Falcon was hoisted from its ship, placed ashore, processed and rotated to the horizontal. Soon, she will undergo ten back to back static fire tests, where the idea of reliable rapid reusability will be further proven to the sometimes skeptical commercial spaceflight community.

     Among all this commotion, a less visible but very symbolic event took place; a sign on a building that read “SpaceX Launch Control” was removed and replaced with a sign that now reads “SpaceX Launch & Landing Control”.


JANUARY 28, 2015

     Today, 29 years ago, the seven souls aboard STS-51-L and Challenger Space Shuttle Orbiter were lost.

Challenger Wreckage Today

     I always said I wanted to photograph all of the Space Shuttle Orbiters. I never thought I’d get the chance to photograph Challenger; but I did, sort of. This is as close as I may ever get to actually doing so.

     The first photo shows Launch Complex 31 and 32 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. At this launch complex, inside two dormant missile silos, rests the wreckage of Space Shuttle Challenger, meticulously sorted and cataloged in its underground tomb. This was as close as I could get to the highly restricted area. On the left side of the first photograph, you can see a beehive shaped block house which housed Launch Control for LC-31 and LC-32. To the right of the photo, there is a smaller, light colored dome, and to the immediate left of it, a slab of dark brown cement protruding from the ground. Those are the caps to the silos that house the Challenger wreckage.

     When I photograph and share an aircraft or spacecraft, I try to attach a corresponding story. I could talk about how or why this disaster unfolded, but this is common knowledge for most people who follow aerospace. Instead, I’m going to share a more personal story. I feel a close connection to Challenger because my father, Bruce Mason, was an applicant in the Teacher in Space Program. If he had been selected, he could have been on the fatal flight. This is an example of what thousands of Teacher in Space applicants and their families went through.

Teacher In Space

     The story starts before I was born. In 1984 Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Program and my dad, a Georgia public middle school science teacher, applied as soon as he heard about the widely publicized program. Before applying to the Teacher in Space Program, he started the “Target Program”, which offers gifted children accelerated learning in the state of Georgia. Before that, he became the first educator in the state to connect a school computer to the internet.

     To apply, the teachers had to come up with an educational project that they would perform in space and submit a paper about the project along with their applications. My father’s experiment would have demonstrated and proven Newton’s Universal Gravitation Theory using simple machine mechanics in microgravity. It would have been something students could have watched on camera, seeing it work live from space.

     Over 11,000 teachers applied nationwide, but my dad was the only teacher in his school to sign up. Another part of the application process was to get a recommendation from a fellow teacher. When Dad approached a co-worker about the recommendation, she was happy to help, but said that he was crazy. Dad’s school students were in on the project too, and were all very excited about the possibility of their teacher flying in space.

     Months went by and tension grew at home. Mom was excited for Dad, but my sister, who was 12 at the time, begged him not to go, expressing fear that he would die. If I were around at the time, I would have fully supported my dad’s mission. 

     Just before the final 10 applicants were chosen, Dad received a letter saying that somebody else from his region was chosen to move on to the final stage of selection. He was heartbroken at missing the chance to fly in space until he learned about Christa Mcauliffe, the finalist, who was a perfect fit for the position. In his words, Dad said that “Christa was an amazing teacher, and an amazing woman." My father even made plans to attend a teaching convention in San Francisco, where Christa was slated to speak after her spaceflight. She was an English teacher, and her project was to keep a journal during her time in space. This journal would have answered the question that every person has, "What’s it really like up there?”

Challenger Disaster

     January 28, 1986, Dad woke up to an extremely cold morning; so uncharacteristically cold that the county declared a “teacher work day”, where the kids would stay at home for their safety. My sister was sick that day, so Mom stayed at home to take care of her. Before going into work, Dad watched pre-launch news coverage of STS-51-L, which showed footage of enormous icicles hanging from equipment at Launch Complex 39B where Challenger sat ready for flight. Looking at the conditions, he assumed that they would scrub the launch, as they did five times leading up to that day.

     Later, Dad came back from his lunch break at work. He entered the building, walked down a hall and was stopped by a co-worker and family friend named Jackie. Dad tells me that, to this day he remembers the exact spot where he stopped. Jackie began exclaiming that the space shuttle had exploded. Jackie was known as quite a character and Dad thought she was kidding, just making a tasteless joke. The more insistent Jackie got, the more Dad didn’t believe her. The assistant principal, who was in his office nearby, overheard the conversation and interjected, confirming that the shuttle had exploded and that there would be no possible survivors. At that point, my father said that it felt as if a trap door opened up under his feet and he fell through it.

     My mother watched every rocket launch on TV and this flight was no different. Mom watched the whole thing happen from home, on live television. She said, “It went up and it was great. Then it just turned into fireworks and went in all different directions. I couldn’t believe what was happening because NASA is not supposed to do that.” She’d tried to call Dad at school, but these were the days before cell phones and he was out to lunch when it happened.

     Eventually, Dad saw the footage of the launch. Even now, he says that it’s hard for him to watch. Especially the moment when the camera cuts to the horrified face of Frederick Gregory in Launch Control, an astronaut who gave Dad a tour of Kennedy Space Center. Dad knows Frederick as such a glowing, positive person and it was impactful to witness him go through such shock. Later that evening, my family watched president Ronald Reagan’s speech after the accident, feeling as though it was our president’s finest moment. Reagan said, “We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe…We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

     The next day, the students were back at school. All the kids that were in Dad’s class when he applied had moved on to the next grade, but they all managed to find him during the school day and express their shock and condolences.

     Quickly, Dad’s thoughts went to Christa, her family and especially Christa’s students who watched the launch live, all wearing party hats and using noisemakers, cheering their teacher before she was lost. Dad had been able to relate to Christa because she had a daughter at the same age as my sister who also didn’t want her parent to go into space.

     Instead of going to the teaching convention in San Francisco, where Christa would have spoken after her flight, my parents visited Christa’s hometown, where she lived and taught. Later, once I was born, Dad made sure to share Christa’s legacy with me. I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t know who she was and what she did. Ever since the accident, Dad displayed a sign on the wall in his classroom that said “Christa Mcauliffe teaches here too.”

Why Continue?

     Some officials and astronauts express anger or sadness with regards to the Challenger disaster and I understand why. I have similar feelings. But these feelings are ultimately overshadowed by pride for the fact that we pushed on with the shuttle program after each accident. I am confident that humans will never stop adventuring for the sake of science. Exploration is instinctually ingrained in every person. And every person that flies into space, who takes such risk for the betterment of the human race, is a hero, no matter if their flight fails or succeeds.

Launch to Lovejoy : Blasting skyward an Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. Navy satellite pierces a cloud bank in this starry night scene captured on January 20. On its way to orbit from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth, the rocket streaks past brightest star Sirius, as seen from a dark beach at Canaveral National Seashore. Above the alpha star of Canis Major, Orion the Hunter strikes a pose familiar to northern winter skygazers. Above Orion is the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, head of Taurus the Bull, and farther still above Taurus it’s easy to spot the compact Pleiades star cluster. Of course near the top of the frame you’ll find the greenish coma and long tail of Comet Lovejoy, astronomical darling of these January nights. via NASA


    September 2, 2015

    A particularly impressive spectacle was seen over the Space Coast of Florida this morning. At 6:18 AM, an Atlas V 551 rocket launched from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 500 series core stage roared along with its five solid rocket boosters. The Centaur upper stage successfully put the Mobile User Objective System 4 (MUOS4) satellite on station. This spacecraft will remain in geosynchronous orbit, allowing our US Navy a higher bandwidth for 21st century tactical communications.

    This, being United Launch Alliance’s 99th launch, was business as usual; all except for an incredible visual display. Most of the time, launches from The Cape are accompanied by many clouds, severely limiting visibility. Not so for this launch. The rocket lifted off just before dawn, cresting the shadow of the earth as it penetrated the upper reaches of the atmosphere, showing a back-lit vapor plume expanding rapidly as it sailed skyward. The vehicle could be seen until it arced over the horizon, out of view. The sight was stunning. Never has man produced a more visually beautiful thing than rocketry.

The first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket lands at Landing Zone 1 (former Launch Complex 13) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, 8:38 pm EST, December 21, 2015.

Nine minutes earlier, at 8:29 pm, the Falcon 9 lifted off from SLC-40 with 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites. This was the first time in history an orbital rocket landed successfully and recovered following launch.

Full video of the landing from a SpaceX Hexacopter drone can be seen here.

Spectators watch from Cocoa Beach as Alan Shepard blasts off in his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station . He flew a suborbital trajectory lasting 15 minutes and 22 seconds, becoming the first American to fly into space.

via reddit