Kepler Space Telescope Discovers First Evidence for Exocomets Transiting Their Stars

Artist’s conception of a “storm” of comets orbiting a nearby star. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Comets, those icy and rocky bodies with the spectacular long tails of gas and dust, are common in our Solar System, with several thousand having been discovered so far. But what about other solar systems? Thousands of exoplanets are now being discovered, along with the first hints of exomoons, so it seems natural that comets should also exist in at least some of these alien solar systems. Now, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has indeed found the first good evidence for comets transiting their host stars.

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Taiwan's First Home-Grown Remote-Sensing Satellite Stands Ready for Thursday Falcon 9 Launch

The Upgraded Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D+ engines burn furiously for 3.5 seconds on Saturday, 19 August, ahead of the Formosat 5 mission. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

Taiwan’s first fully home-grown satellite, Formosat-5, will hitch a ride to orbit on Thursday, 24 August, as SpaceX ratchets its flight rate back up after a summer of infrastructure upgrades and maintenance on the East and West Coasts of the United States. Launch of the 12th Upgraded Falcon 9 of the year is targeted to occur from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., during a 44-minute “window”, which opens at 11:50 a.m. PDT. It will mark SpaceX’s fifth flight out of mountain-ringed Vandenberg and its third in 2017 alone, coming on the heels of two batches of Iridium NEXT communications satellites, the first in January and more recently in late June.

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Four Decades, Four Planets: Voyager 2 Celebrates 40 Years of Deep Space Exploration

The Voyager adventure began 40 years ago, today, on 20 August 1977. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Forty years ago, today, on 20 August 1977, a space explorer rose from Earth on a multi-decade adventure, which would unveil all four of the Solar System’s giant gaseous planets in unprecedented detail. Despite being originally detailed to visit Jupiter and Saturn, NASA’s Voyager 2 mission went on to reveal both Uranus and Neptune to human eyes for the first time in our species’ history. Together with its twin, Voyager 1, launched two weeks later, on 5 September, the spacecraft has revolutionized our understanding of Earth’s place in the cosmos. Yet Voyager 2’s journey into space was by no means smooth sailing.

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After Four Month Hiatus, ULA Returns to Flight With Early-Morning TDRS-M Launch

After four months on the ground, United Launch Alliance (ULA) returns to flight on Friday, 18 August, delivering NASA’s latest Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) to orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully delivered the latest member of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) earlier today (Friday, 18 August), following a smooth countdown. The workhorse Atlas V booster—flying in its “barebones” 401 configuration, equipped with a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage—roared away from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 8:29 a.m. EDT, halfway through today’s 40-minute “window”.

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What Are Those Weird Dark Streaks on Venus? NASA CubeSat Mission Could Find Out

The unusual dark streaks in Venus’ upper atmosphere, seen only in ultraviolet light. Image Credit: NASA

Even though Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, it is still one of the most mysterious. Numerous landers and orbiters have visited this extremely hostile world, but there are still many unanswered questions to be resolved. Now, NASA is proposing a new mission using a small CubeSat, called CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE), to further study Venus’ atmosphere and hopefully solve at least one of the more perplexing mysteries.

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NASA Space Communications Operations to Extend Through 2030, With Friday Launch of TDRS-M

Originally scheduled to launch on 3 August, NASA’s next Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) will now launch on 18 August, atop an Atlas V 401 booster. Photo: AmericaSpace / Jeff Seibert

More than 30 years since its maiden launch—and having enabled near-continuous communications traffic between dozens of Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) crews—NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) will welcome its 12th member into Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) on Friday, 18 August. TDRS-M is currently targeted to launch from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., during a 40-minute “window”, which opens at 8:03 a.m. EDT. Providing the requisite muscle to get the 7,600-pound (3,450 kg) satellite into orbit will be United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) venerable Atlas V booster.

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Cassini Prepares For One Last Look at Titan Before Spectacular End of Mission

Two views of Titan from Cassini, using the narrow-angle camera on March 21, 2017, revealing bright methane clouds in the thick, opaque nitrogen atmosphere, and dark dunes, lakes and seas on the surface. Natural color on left, false color on right. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

There are now less than five orbits left in the Grand Finale until Cassini’s awe-inspiring mission at Saturn comes to an end. With each remaining orbit, Cassini comes closer to plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, never to be heard from again. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, assists the spacecraft during this phase of the mission, nudging on it with its gravity to keep Cassini in the right orbits for when it dives between the innermost rings and the planet itself. And now those final moments are almost here.

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SpaceX Launches Third Dragon of 2017 to Space Station, Lands 6th Rocket on LZ-1

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Credit: AmericaSpace/Alan Walters

For the ninth time this year, the roar of nine Merlin 1D+ engines pummeled Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida earlier today (Monday, 14 August), as SpaceX successfully delivered its third Dragon cargo mission of 2017 onto a course for the International Space Station (ISS). Liftoff of the Upgraded Falcon 9 booster occurred on-time at 12:31 p.m. EDT Monday and within minutes the Dragon had entered low-Earth orbit and was in the process of deploying its electricity-generating solar arrays and Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) Bay Door. Capture and berthing at the ISS is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, 16 August.

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'Thanks for the Lift': 40 Years Since Enterprise Took Free-Flight

Enterprise’s flights, 40 years ago, laid the groundwork for the Free Flights and eventually the maiden Space Shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA

They gathered in their thousands—65,000, in fact—at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in the cool, pre-dawn hours of Friday, 12 August 1977, to witness America’s first Space Shuttle take flight and perform its first independent landing. Among those thousands were 900 accredited members of the media and 2,000 special guests. By this time, “Enterprise” had already conducted a number of tests, attached to the top of NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), but 40 years ago this week she demonstrated that the Space Shuttle could achieve flight under its own control.

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Storms Threaten Post-Landing Securing of Falcon 9 First Stage on Monday

A successful test fire of the Falcon 9 for next week’s CRS-12 launch, NET Aug 14. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace/Jeff Seibert

Weather conditions are expected to be broadly favorable around midday Monday, as SpaceX prepares to return to flight after an Eastern Range-enforced month-long hiatus in flights from the East Coast. Current plans call for the Hawthorne, Calif.-based organization to launch its 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Upgraded Falcon 9 from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at 12:31 p.m. EDT, delivering the CRS-12 Dragon cargo ship on a two-day chasedown of the International Space Station (ISS).

According to the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, there exists a 70-percent likelihood of acceptable weather at T-0, with a similar outlook for the backup opportunity on Tuesday. Moreover, weekend thunderstorms may pose difficulties in securing the Upgraded Falcon 9’s first stage after it makes landfall on Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a few minutes after launch.

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