NASA managers say the WFIRST mission, the next in the agency’s line of powerful observatories after the Hubble and James Webb telescopes, could cost around $3.2 billion after budgeting for a novel first-of-its-kind instrument to probe the make-up of planets around nearby stars and a bigger-than-expected launch vehicle.
Just 10 days after three space station fliers returned to Earth — and two days after launch of a station-bound supply ship — a veteran four-flight cosmonaut and an enthusiastic NASA rookie were cleared for launch Thursday to boost the lab’s crew up to five — one less than usual because of cost cutting by the Russian space agency.
A full-scale BE-4 engine developed by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, is installed on a test stand in West Texas for a series of hotfire tests that United Launch Alliance will closely examine before settling on the reusable methane-fueled engine for its new-generation Vulcan rocket.
NASA launch commentator George Diller called the Atlas 5 with Cygnus, his final liftoff as the voice of launch control before retirement next month. He has worked at the Kennedy Space Center for nearly four decades and served as the commentator for such memorable launches as Hubble, Cassini, Mars Pathfinder, the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers and the final space shuttle mission.