kennedy space center

Atlantis, Orbiter Vehicle 104, lifts off from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex Pad 39B at 12:53:39:983 pm (EDT). This aerial view shows OV-104, its external tank, and two solid rocket boosters rising high above LC Pad 39B atop a plume of exhaust smoke. [4155 x 4155]

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X-37B returns from fourth orbital flight, makes first KSC landing.

Concluding a record-breaking stay in space, the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane returned to Earth this morning. The vehicle spent more than 718 in orbit after launching atop an Atlas V rocket on May 20th, 2015. 

Although the X-37′s operations in orbit are classified, at least two of its payloads were confirmed to be an experimental electric propulsion engine and a materials exposure pallet.

The spaceplane performed a completely autonomous landing at Kennedy Space Center’s runway 15 shortly before 8am EDT, the same runway used by the Space Shuttle program. It marked the first time one of the Orbital Test Vehicle spaceplanes landed at Kennedy Space Center.

Following brief servicing on the runway, the vehicle will be towed to one of the former Orbiter Processing Facilities next to the Vehicle Assembly building. The Air Force has converted one of the old shuttle hangars for use by the OTV program to house their spaceplanes.

P/C: USAF

Go straight & then hang a left ↖️. Space Shuttle Atlantis makes its way to Launch Pad 39A 🚀 Sept 1996. Atlantis had to retreat from the launch pad 2 months earlier due to the risk posed by Hurricane Bertha. It was the 79th mission in Shuttle history.

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Falcon Heavy arrives at pad for fit checks ahead of maiden launch

What will soon become the world’s most powerful rocket made its inaugural public appearance yesterday, December 28, when SpaceX rolled their Falcon Heavy to LC-39A.

While the rocket’s inaugural flight is still scheduled for January, integration and for checks must be performed to verify that the new vehicle’s systems correctly interface with the facilities at the launch complex. SpaceX will still need to perform a static fire of the three core’s combined 27 Merlin 1D engines before the stack is green lighted for flight.

This will be the most powerful rocket to launch off the historic LC-39A since the Saturn V moon rocket and, at 5.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, the most powerful rocket in the world when it enters service. Currently, this distinction is held by ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, which, at 2.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust, can place just under half of the Heavy’s payload capacity into orbit.

Falcon Heavy’s demo mission will launch Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster into a solar orbit at roughly the distance to Mars. Since the vehicle is performing a test flight, no commercial or government payloads are able to be carried, leaving SpaceX free to choose their own ballast.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster is seen inside the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing shortly before encapsulation. Photo: SpaceX.

P/C: Derrick Stamos

Atlantis to the stars. Space Shuttle Atlantis blasts off on its maiden flight, Oct 1985. The 4-day flight was the 2nd in Shuttle history to deploy a classified cargo for the Dep’t of Defence. On the mission, Karol Babko became the 1st astronaut to fly on 3 different Shuttle orbiters and the 1st to fly on 2 maiden Shuttle flights. Atlantis flew a total of 33x, including the Shuttle program’s final flight in 2011.

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SpaceX Gears Up to Finally, Actually Launch the Falcon Heavy
When it launches from Cape Canaveral, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful lift vehicle in the world.

Originally posted by justalittletumblweed

(3 Jan. 1969) — Aerial view of the Apollo 9 (Spacecraft 104/Lunar Module 3/Saturn 504) space vehicle on the way from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center. The Saturn V stack and its mobile launch tower are atop a huge crawler-transporter. (view looking toward Pad A)

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With Gigi Hadid’s recent photoshoot at Kennedy Space Center, spaceflight once again is the backdrop for fashion photography. Photographers in that industry have found the allure of space technology irresistible since the dawn of the space age in the 1950s.

Famous fashion photographer Richard Avendon photographed world-renowned supermodels such as Domiva, Isabella Albanico and Jean Shrimpton in front of rockets, sights around Cape Canaveral, and even a Mercury-era spacesuit during the late 1950s and 1960s.

Gigi’s shoot occurred around Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex in the rocket garden, Moon theatre and other locations.

All the photos above - including Richard Avendon’s from the early space race era - were shot for Harper’s Baazar.

The models and photographers from above:

Domiva in front of an Atlas-Able rocket by Richard Avendon, 1950s.

Isabella Albanico by Richard Avendon, 1959.

Jean Shrimpton by Richard Avendon, 1965.

Gigi Hadid by Mariano Vivanco, 2017.

Getting into position. The 363-foot Saturn V 🚀 is slowly rolled into position for the Apollo 12 launch, Nov 1969. The 10-day mission featured 7 hours & 45 minutes of moonwalks by astronauts 👨‍🚀Alan Bean & Pete Conrad.

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Falcon Heavy soars on maiden voyage, launches Starman and Tesla into deep space. (Feburary 6, 2018)

SpaceX made history February 6 with the long-awaited flight of their Falcon Heavy rocket. Seven years after it was first announced, the three-core booster rose above LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center with over 5.1 million pounds of thrust.

The rocket’s maiden voyage tested both the vehicle’s flight profile which offered significant complexities compared to a single-core Falcon 9. Interactions between the three cores during both ascent, max Q, and booster separation could only be determined in flight. Additionally, three cores landing in near-unison on both ground based landing pads and the droneship had never been attempted before.

Falcon Heavy launches from LC-39A as seen from the NASA Causeway four miles south of the pad. P/c: For All Mankind

Lifting off at 3:45pm EST after over two hours of wind-based delays, Falcon Heavy performed as expected as the rocket pierced the Florida sky. Both side boosters jettisoned two and a half minutes into flight and performed a flawless, jaw-dropping double landing in unison at LZ-1 and LZ-2. Six sonic booms – three per booster – heralded the return of the boosters just eight miles south of where they began their flight.

Once the second stage separated and began firing its engine, the core stage began its descent onto the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ nearly 300 miles downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the booster ran out of TEA/TEB igniter propellant to relight its engines and did not successfully land. Instead, it impacted the water at around 500 kilometers per hour less than 100 yards away from the droneship.

While the cores were performing their landing maneuvers, the second stage was propelling its payload into an initial parking orbit around the Earth. Since Falcon Heavy is a test flight and could not fly a customer’s satellite, SpaceX instead lofted Elon Musk’s own Tesla Roadster into orbit. Riding in the driver’s seat was a mannequin clad in the qualification article for the company’s spacesuit. 

Falcon Heavy’s upper stage camera rig captured this final image of Starman and Tesla as it departed the Earth system bound for deep space. Batteries on he upper stage only lasted for 12 hours. P/c: SpaceX.

Together, the Tesla and its ‘Starman’ passenger- as SpaceX calls him – were pushed into a heliocentric orbit with the high point – or apogee just beyond the orbit of Mars and a low point – or perigee – right at Earth’s. Computer simulations based on these orbital parameters show the combined Tesla/Starman/Falcon upper stage to fly in deep space for nearly a million years before the gravitational effects of other planets perturb the orbit.

Such a feat demonstrates the Heavy’s ability to launch payloads into interplanetary space for a fraction of the cost of other launch vehicles on the market. This is good news for planetary science or human exploration missions.

Falcon Heavy also successfully demonstrated the ability of SpaceX to operate a heavy-lift launch vehicle that is both reusable and cost efficient. CEO Elon Musk said that the cost of a Heavy launch would be $90 million with full recovery, $95 with side booster recovery, and $150 million for full expendability. By comparison, America’s only other heavy-lift launch vehicle, ULA’s Delta IV Heavy, can put about half the payload to the same orbit for around $350 million.

Such a reduction in cost allows the Heavy to fit into the market for direct-insertion geostationary and national security missions, both of which require heavy-lift capability and extended maneuvering of the vehicle’s upper stage.

Musk stated in a post-launch news conference that multiple customers are lined up to use the Heavy and will eventually have the vehicle certified for national security missions. “We’ll be doing several Falcon Heavy launches per year. If there’s a big national security satellite due for launch in three or four years we’ll probably have a dozen or more launches done by then.

Click here to see Falcon Heavy’s long road to the launch pad in our archive.

Check out the SpaceX launch webcast of the Falcon Heavy mission below.

P/c: For All Mankind/Joey Vars

NASA’s New Planet Hunter Reveals a Sky Full of Stars

NASA’s newest planet-hunting satellite — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short — has just released its first science image using all of its cameras to capture a huge swath of the sky! TESS is NASA’s next step in the search for planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets.

This spectacular image, the first released using all four of TESS’ cameras, shows the satellite’s full field of view. It captures parts of a dozen constellations, from Capricornus (the Sea Goat) to Pictor (the Painter’s Easel) — though it might be hard to find familiar constellations among all these stars! The image even includes the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, our galaxy’s two largest companion galaxies.

The science community calls this image “first light,” but don’t let that fool you — TESS has been seeing light since it launched in April. A first light image like this is released to show off the first science-quality image taken after a mission starts collecting science data, highlighting a spacecraft’s capabilities.

TESS has been busy since it launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. First TESS needed to get into position, which required a push from the Moon. After nearly a month in space, the satellite passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, whose gravity gave it the boost it needed to get into a special orbit that will keep it stable and maximize its view of the sky.

During those first few weeks, we also got a sneak peek of the sky through one of TESS’s four cameras. This test image captured over 200,000 stars in just two seconds! The spacecraft was pointed toward the constellation Centaurus when it snapped this picture. The bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge, and the edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner.

After settling into orbit, scientists ran a number of checks on TESS, including testing its ability to collect a set of stable images over a prolonged period of time. TESS not only proved its ability to perform this task, it also got a surprise! A comet named C/2018 N1 passed through TESS’s cameras for about 17 hours in July.

The images show a treasure trove of cosmic curiosities. There are some stars whose brightness changes over time and asteroids visible as small moving white dots. You can even see an arc of stray light from Mars, which is located outside the image, moving across the screen.

Now that TESS has settled into orbit and has been thoroughly tested, it’s digging into its main mission of finding planets around other stars. How will it spot something as tiny and faint as a planet trillions of miles away? The trick is to look at the star!

So far, most of the exoplanets we’ve found were detected by looking for tiny dips in the brightness of their host stars. These dips are caused by the planet passing between us and its star – an event called a transit. Over its first two years, TESS will stare at 200,000 of the nearest and brightest stars in the sky to look for transits to identify stars with planets.

TESS will be building on the legacy of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which also used transits to find exoplanets. TESS’s target stars are about 10 times closer than Kepler’s, so they’ll tend to be brighter. Because they’re closer and brighter, TESS’s target stars will be ideal candidates for follow-up studies with current and future observatories.

TESS is challenging over 200,000 of our stellar neighbors to a staring contest! Who knows what new amazing planets we’ll find?

The TESS mission is led by MIT and came together with the help of many different partners. You can keep up with the latest from the TESS mission by following mission updates.

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