Pegasus rocket selected to launch ICON satellite


Pegasus Rocket undergoing Launch Preparations

NASA has selected an Orbital Sciences Corp. air-launched Pegasus XL rocket to place a small research satellite in orbit in 2017 to study the connection between Earth’s weather and space weather, the space agency announced Thursday.


Artist’s concept of the ICON spacecraft. Credit: University of California at Berkeley/Space Sciences Laboratory

The complete article here, courtesy of Stephen Clark @ SpaceFlightNow

MAVEN Launched One Year Ago on November 18th, 2013

One year ago today, MAVEN was sent off on a perfect trajectory to put the spacecraft into orbit around Mars. Thanks to all of our wonderful partners who made it happen so seamlessly. Today, MAVEN has begun investigating Mars’ upper atmosphere in an effort to solve the climate mystery of the Red Planet.

On November 18, 2013 at 1:28 p.m. EST, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to send the ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft on its way to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere. Launch Gallery Photos, courtesy of  NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

MAVEN on its way

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars Post

MAVEN on Pad

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars Post

Morning of Launch

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars Post


Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars Post 

MAVEN Begins Primary Science Mission


An artists representation of the MAVEN spacecraft with present day Mars in front of what the Red Planet may have looked like billions of years ago. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LASP)

–Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft completed its commissioning activities on November 16 and has formally begun its one-year primary science mission. The start of science is actually a “soft start”, in that the instruments started making science measurements beginning almost as soon as we were in orbit, and some instrument calibration activities will be continuing throughout the mission.

Spacecraft commissioning, in what the MAVEN team called its “transition phase”, included adjusting the orbit to get into its science orbit, deploying the booms that hold a number of the instruments away from the spacecraft, ejecting the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument cover, turning on and checking out each of the science instruments, and carrying out calibration activities for both the spacecraft and the instruments. This period also included the close approach of Comet Siding Spring, which whizzed by ‪#‎Mars‬ at a distance of only ~135,000 km on October 19.

Read the full update,

MAVEN Instruments

MAVEN’s payload of scientific instruments is annotated in this artist’s representation of the NASA Mars orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC)

Milky Way Giant Black Hole may be producing Neutrinos

NuSTAR Neutrinos

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai. et al.

The giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be producing mysterious particles called neutrinos. If confirmed, this would be the first time that scientists have traced neutrinos back to a black hole. The evidence for this came from three NASA satellites that observe in X-ray light: the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Swift gamma-ray mission, and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

You can read the complete Black Hole article

ICON Cleared for Next Development Phase


NASA’s new ICON mission will study what causes variation in airglow such as the red glowing band seen in the atmosphere in this image from the International Space Station. Such emissions point to disturbances that can interfere with radio communications. Image Credit: NASA

NASA has officially confirmed the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, mission, clearing it to move forward into the development phase. ICON will explore a swath of Earth’s atmosphere where weather close to the ground impacts the dynamic space environment above in unexpected ways.

You can read the complete ICON article

Evidence for interstellar origin…

In a recent paper in Science, a collaboration of 65 professional scientists and more than 30,000 citizen scientists of Stardust at Home, led by SSL Research Physicist Andrew Westphal, reported on the identification and analyses of tiny particles that are likely to be the first particles ever identified from interstellar space, outside our Solar System. Previously, much of our knowledge of interstellar dust has come from observations of using telescopes, but these analyses were carried out using laboratory instruments, including x-ray microscopes the size of shopping malls. The particles were surprisingly diverse in their composition and structure. The number of large particles was also a surprise, and implies that many particles in interstellar space have a complex, open structure, more like snowflakes than solid rocks. These particles are likely to be very similar to the original building blocks of the Solar System the Sun, the planets, the Earth, and us.