Love & Rockets Your Local Astronomer SubOrbital

It started for me at Fletcher's Hobby Shop on Middle Country Road, in Smithtown, NY.

A Mom-n-Pop shop, they had a huge selection of H.O. scale Model Railroad gear, but soon my eyes caught the ESTES Model Rockets. . . 

Wallops Flight Facility

Orbital ATK Launches Record Payload From Wallops Island

   Orbital ATK launched its Antares twin engine rocket with the Cygnus resupply craft 7:45pm EDT Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016 near the close of a five-minute window. The Launch Director made a very wise decision for a last call from all workstations. That's professionalism. 

It's been two years since the Antares' last attempt, which resulted in the loss of the craft, rocket and damage to Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The Goddard Space Flight Center, of  Greenbelt, MD operates the Wallops Island Rocket Range. It is one of three sites and is also responsible for two sites at the White Sands Complex in Las Cruces, NM

I watched the launch 90 miles north, from the new overpass at New Burton Rd. Imagine my surprise to see the bright red glow of the plume. It was not 5 arcseconds long, but to see the flames from 90 miles away! I wasn't prepared for that. 

   The sixth cargo resupply mission by Orbital ATK under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company and the fourth launch from Virginia. Cargo resupply by U.S. companies enables a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new science investigations aboard the world’s only microgravity laboratory.

Information about Orbital ATK, its Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft

Information about the International Space Station



Visibility Map of Antares Launch 18 Oct., 2016 7:45 pm EDT 

Read about the RockOn June 21 launches.
ATREX - March 27, 2012 (NOTE: This link was not working at Post time.) 
Congratulations Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va.

NASA Adds Orbital's Antares To Launch Services II Contract

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has modified its NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to add the Antares launch vehicle, formerly known as Taurus II, for future missions. 

The NLS II on-ramp provision provides an opportunity annually for launch service providers not presently under NLS II contract to compete for future missions, and allows launch service providers already under contract to introduce launch vehicles not currently on their NLS II contracts, such as Antares



NuSTAR spacecraft launched June 13, 2012 aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket

The Dragon Has Landed
From: SpaceX <>
To: StarwatcherUSA <>
Date: Thu, May 31, 2012 4:39 pm


The Dragon Has Landed

SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft Safely Completes Historic Mission to the Space Station


This morning, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed its historic mission when the Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely in the Pacific.  The vehicle will now be recovered by boats and start the trip back to land. 


At 11:00 AM Pacific/2:00 PM Eastern, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk will join NASA Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini and NASA COTS Program Manager Alan Lindenmoyer for a press conference to discuss today’s exciting events.


Last week, SpaceX made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the International Space Station.  Previously only four governments – the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency – had achieved this challenging technical feat.  Dragon departed the space station this morning.


This is SpaceX's second demonstration flight under a 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA to develop the capability to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.


# # #

NOAA retires GOES-7 after 25 years as weather & communications satellite

On April 12, GOES-7 was “retired” from service through a final burn from its booster, which moved it approximately 186 miles (300 km) above its operational geostationary orbit to a “graveyard orbit”, such that it will not interfere with other satellites.


RELEASE : 12-250
NASA Successfully Tests Hypersonic Inflatable Heat Shield
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. -- A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. 

The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by sounding rocket at 7:01 a.m. Monday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The purpose of the IRVE-3 test was to show that a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during planetary entry and descent, or as it returns to Earth with cargo from the International Space Station. 
 The launch window for a 22-inch NASA Black Brant XI 3-stage suborbital sounding rocket carrying the IRVE-3, is currently scheduled between 6 and 8 a.m. EDT, July 21.

The launch is not likely to be visible 50 miles outside the Launch Range. 

Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment ( IRVE )

"Technicians will vacuum pack the uninflated 10-foot (3.05 meters) diameter cone of high-tech inner tubes into a 22-inch (56 centimeters) diameter sounding rocket. During the flight test an on board system will inflate the tubes -- stretching a thermal blanket that covers them -to create an aeroshell or heat shield. . . 

"After launch the rocket will climb 287 miles (462 kilometers) into the skies over the Atlantic Ocean. The IRVE-3 will separate from the sounding rocket, its aeroshell will get pumped full of nitrogen and then the inflated heat shield and payload will plummet back through Earth's atmosphere. Cameras and instruments will transmit pictures and data to researchers in the Wallops control room the entire time.

An inflatable heat shield could accommodate larger payloads that could deliver more and heavier science instruments and tools for exploration -- changing the way we explore other worlds." 

UPDATED  07.18.12 

Transit of Venus
June 5-6, 2012

Circumstances for Dover, DE 39d 10' N, 75d 36' W 51' ELEV. 

June 5, 2012 before sunset on the East Coast of  North America - 

Venus touches Sun at start of transit (1st contact) 6:03:53 pm on June 5, 2012

Venus within Sun at start of transit (2nd contact) 6:21:25 pm on June 5, 2012

Venus within Sun at end of transit (3rd contact) 0:33:29 am on June 6, 2012

Venus touches Sun at end of transit (4th contact) 0:51:21 am on June 6, 2012

Sun-Earth Day Webcast to Commemorate Venus Transit

NASA's Sun-Earth Day team has joined forces with NASA EDGE to celebrate the Transit of Venus with a live webcast from Hawaii. On June 5, 2012, tune in for a live webcast from Mauna Kea in Hawaii.


The Venus Transit event will not be visible from the continental U.S. in its entirety, so the NASA EDGE and Sun-Earth Day teams are heading to Hilo, Hawaii. A mountainside location on Mauna Kea will give a wonderful view of the entire transit with little chance of cloud cover. Viewers will be able to see real-time images of the transit for the duration of the event in various wavelengths of light.


This webcast will emphasize the history and importance of Hawaiian astronomy and its connections to NASA space science. Using the backdrop of Mauna Kea, the University of Hawaii, NASA scientists and Hawaiian cultural leaders will weave multigenerational stories combining ancient ways of knowing with modern scientific discoveries. 


For more information about the Venus Transit webcast, visit


To learn more about the Transit of Venus and to find activities related to this once-in-a-lifetime event, visit 

Inquiries about this event should be directed to Elaine Lewis at



Venus Transit Event at the National Air and Space Museum


Visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 2012, from 6-8 p.m. for a special look at Venus as it passes between Earth and the sun. Astronomy educators and museum volunteers will assist visitors in viewing the transit through safe solar telescopes. This is a must-see opportunity and the last chance to view the transit in our lifetime. 


The special viewing will take place weather permitting.


For more information, visit



U.S., you will see the planet Venus as it moves across the face of the sun. The last time this event occurred was on June 8, 2004 when it was watched by millions of people across the world. For over 100 years the main quest of astronomers was to pin down the distance between Earth and Sun (the Astronomical Unit), which would give them a key to the size of the solar system. Careful studies of the transit of Venus became the gold mine they would harvest to reveal this measure. This event will not occur again until 2117.

How often do eclipses occur? There will be 36 solar eclipses from 2001-2025 of which 15 will be total eclipses on some part of Earth’s surface – a little less than the average of one a year. The common myth that eclipses don’t occur very often has evolved because seeing a total eclipse from a specific point on the surface of Earth is not common. Most people think that solar eclipses are quite rare but there are actually two to five eclipses 

every year. They only seem rare because each eclipse can only be seen from a small part of Earth. The next total solar eclipse visible in North America will occur in 2017 (see map below).

The Sun-Earth Day community is taking full advantage of today’s digital and social media tools. Connect with NASA scientists, educators and Sun-Earth Day fans from around the globe! Twitter: Facebook: YouTube: Podcasts: Vodcasts: 

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