A balky interplanetary seismic instrument that ran into technical problems in 2015, forcing a two-year delay in the launch of NASA’s InSight lander to Mars, cleared a major test last week after engineers redesigned part of the sensor package, boosting confidence that the mission will be ready to blast off in May 2018.
The head of the launch enterprise directorate at the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Claire Leon, spoke with reporters March 15 about the military’s award of a GPS launch contract to SpaceX, and she discussed plans for more head-to-head launch contract competitions in the coming months.
NASA is gearing up for an intense few weeks of work aboard the International Space Station, staging three spacewalks, moving a docking port from one module to another to support commercial crew ferry ships and capturing an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship carrying nearly 4 tons of equipment and supplies.
The United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, standing 217 feet tall and weighing 900,000 pounds, unleashes 1.8 million pounds of thrust from its main engine and four side-mounted boosters at 8:18 p.m. EDT Saturday (0018 GMT Sunday) to launch the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite for U.S. military and allied communications.
The 330-foot-tall mobile service tower is rolled away from the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s pad 37B in the hours before the scheduled liftoff. The 9-million-pound gantry was retracted the length of a football field in preparation for launch of the Air Force’s WGS 9 communications satellite into Earth orbit.