United Launch Alliance began their 2017 launch manifest with the successful delivery of the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 satellite.
The launch was originally scheduled to launch yesterday but was delayed due to a sensor issue on the RD-180 engine the Atlas V 401 and then a fouled range with an aircraft encroaching on the keep out zone.
The countdown today proceeded smoothly with an on time launch occurring at 7:41 pm ET from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at Cape Canaveral and delivered the payload to orbit 43 minutes later.
More than a year after the catastrophic failure of the Antares Launch vehicle which resulted in the lose of the Cygnus Cargo vehicle and its payload Orbital’s enhanced Cygnus vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral today with the help of an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch which was delayed three times due to inclement weather finally lifted off this afternoon when the Atlas V RD-180 came to life.
Orbital elected to purchase two Atlas V launches to allow it to resume its Commercial Resupply contract with NASA for the International Space Station while the enhancements to its Antares rocket continue. Orbital were also able to introduce there enhanced Cygnus vehicle which can carry an additional 1,200-1,500 kg of cargo depending on launch vehicle.
Following a smooth countdown this evening NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) satellites launched aboard a ULA Altas 5. The MMS mission consists of four spacecraft, that will be deployed into orbit later this evening following the second burn of the centaur, and will then begin to deploy there various instruments to allow them to measure the interaction of the magnetic structures around the planet. The four spacecraft once fully deployed will fly in a pyramid formation allowing them to produce a 3D map of the interactions.
Each spacecraft carries identical instrument suites of plasma analyzers, energetic particle detectors, magnetometers, and electric field instruments as well as a device to prevent spacecraft charging from interfering with the highly sensitive measurements required in and around the diffusion regions.
The plasma and fields instruments will measure the ion and electron distributions and the electric and magnetic fields with unprecedentedly high (millisecond) time resolution and accuracy. These measurements will enable to MMS to locate and identify the small (1-10 km) and rapidly moving (10-100 km/s) diffusion regions, to determine their size and structure, and to discover the mechanism(s) by which the frozen-in condition is broken, the ions and electrons become demagnetized, and the magnetic field is re-configured. MMS will make the first unambiguous measurements of plasma composition at reconnection sites, while energetic particle detectors will remotely sense the regions where reconnection occurs and determine how reconnection processes produce such large numbers of energetic particles.
NASA have confirmed that the four spacecraft deployed successfully following the second burn of the centaur upper stage.
United Launch Alliance started it’s 2015 launch schedule with a beautiful launch from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 last night. The most powerful version of there Atlas V family this rocket had a single core and five solid boasters. The launch was delayed several times due to weather violations but was able to launch within the available window concluding in a successful deployment of the U.S. Navy’s third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite.
The images below were capture from the ULA web cast.
This afternoon ULA successfully launches another GPS IIF satellite aboard it’s workhorse Atlas V vehicle. This was the third launch attempt around the world within a 24 hour period following the Orbital Antares accident yesterday and the successful Soyuz launch early this morning EDT.
This was the 8th GPS IIF satellite to be launched by ULA, the first 5 abort Delta IV and the others using Atlas V.
Following a smooth countdown the Atlas V’s RD-180 engine roared to life lifting the rocket towards orbit. At the end of the live broadcast the rocket was coasting to it’s second Centaur firing destination, the satellite will be deployed once the second stage arrives at it’s drop off destination.
The following screen grabs were taken from the ULA live feed.
This evening a United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifted off with a secret payload called CLIO for the Department of Defense. Details of the orbit or what the payload is for has not been made available. The launch was delayed several times due to weather constrains but those cleared allowing a liftoff to occur at 8:10pm EDT which was right at the end of the window available for today’s attempt.
CLIO was successfully deployed from the Atlas’ centaur upper stage nearly three hours after launch high above the eastern Indian Ocean. The spacecraft’s successful 11:01 p.m. separation will be followed over the next few weeks by maneuvering CLIO to it’s home in geostationary orbit.
Today at 4pm EDT from Kennedy Space Center NASA announced the winners of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts.
And the winners are:
Boeing – The CST-100 capsule seen to the right has been awarded $4.2 billion of the money. Over the next three years Boeing will have to complete a number of milestones below to prove that the CST-100 capsule can indeed deliver crew to the ISS.
While the CST-100, according to Boeing, can be launched on multiple rockets they have selected to use the Atlas V as the launch vehicle.
This will bring Boeing’s total under the Commercial Crew Development program to $4.77 billion.
SpaceX – The Dragon V2 again seen on the right has also been awarded a contract of $2.6 billion allowing NASA to have a two options for the CCtCap process.
At the time of writing SpaceX have not completed their pad or launch abort tests from the CCiCap contract, however they are scheduled to be completed in the next six months and there should be no reason that SpaceX couldn’t be ready before 2017.
This will bring SpaceX’s total under the Commercial Crew Development program $3.11 billion
Each company will have to pass five certification milestones as well as a number of others that they themselves have selected, payment will be based on the different milestones. We will bring you news of these milestones once the information has been been made available.
Under the contracts awarded today both companies will perform one demo flight each and a maximum of six crewed missions to the station carrying four crew members each time, they also include some money towards additional studies. With the introduction of the Dragon V2 and CST-100 NASA have also announced that the space station will move from a six member crew to seven members allow more research to be performed.
The award amounts are based on the paperwork that was submitted during the process by each company and both have to meet the same goals laid out by NASA. Basically SpaceX will be achieving the same goals for 62% the cost that Boeing will.
In summary this is what we hoped would happen, two competitors have been selected and the next few years are going to be exciting for US manned spaceflight, we are another step closer to returning crewed flight to US soil and despite the fact that one of the competitors is still reliant on Russian engines to get into orbit that may change too as news of a partnership between ULA and Blue Origin to be announced tomorrow could see the RD-180 replaced, we will bring new of that announcement as soon as we have it.
At present we have no news on what will happen to the Dream Chaser program at SNC, when we have further information it will be made available here.
This evening a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral carrying a GPS IIF satellite. This was the second launch this week for ULA making it the fastest turn around for launches at the cape.
At the time of writing the spacecraft was still in it’s coast phase, once complete the RL10 engine will fire once more to circularize the orbit and then deploy the satellite.
Below are some images captured from the live stream of the launch.