This spacecraft is being readied for a one-way mission to deflect an asteroid

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In a clean room in Building 23 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, a spacecraft called DART was splayed open like a fractured, cubic egg. An instrument called a star tracker—which will, once DART is in deep space, ascertain which way is up—was mounted to the core, along with batteries and a variety of other sensors. The avionics system, DART’s central computer, was prominently attached to square, precision-machined panels that will form the sides, once the spacecraft is folded up. Wires ran from the computer to the radiosystem that DART will use to communicate with Earth. Gyroscopes and antennas were exposed. In a room next door, an experimental thruster system called NEXT-C was waiting its turn. Great bundles of thick tendrils wrapped in silver insulation hung down from the spacecraft and ran along the floor to the control room, where they connected to a towering battery of testbed computers operated by four engineers.

A clock over one of the computers read, “Days to DART Launch: 350:08:33.”

DART—the Double Asteroid Redirection Test—is designed to crash into an asteroid called Dimorphos. The impact will change Dimorphos’s speed by about one millimeter per second, or one five-hundredth of a mile per hour. Though Dimorphos is not about to collide with Earth, DART is intended to demonstrate the ability to deflect an asteroid like it that is headed our way, should one ever be discovered.

Since a Soviet probe called Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to escape Earth’s orbit on January 2, 1959, humanity has sent about 250 probes into the solar system. DART is unique among them. It is the first that sets out not to study the solar system, but to change it. 


By 1980, astronomers had determined the orbits of about 10,000 asteroids, including

Former NASA astronaut who helped build new Boeing spacecraft won’t fly on first mission

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Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson says he no longer plans to command the first-ever crewed mission of the Boeing Starliner, the spacecraft he’s spent the last decade helping to build.



a man wearing sunglasses: Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.


© Terry Renna/AP
Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson looks on during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. They will be part of the first crew to fly on the Starliner spacecraft some time next year.

NASA and Boeing made the announcement Wednesday morning, saying Ferguson made the decision for “personal reasons.” Ferguson said in a follow-up tweet that he plans to prioritize his family, and he “made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing.”

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He did not provide further details.

Ferguson, an engineer and veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, left the NASA astronaut corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build a next-generation spacecraft that could take over the task of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In 2018, Boeing announced Ferguson would command the Starliner’s first-ever crewed test flight, and he was expected to become the first-ever NASA astronaut to travel to space after retiring from NASA. He was also seen as the first corporate astronaut — his flight suit bares a Boeing logo where others have the NASA emblem.

The astronauts who traveled on SpaceX’s first-ever crewed mission in May, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, were both active members of the NASA astronaut corps, not SpaceX employee.

Ferguson was supposed to be the only Boeing employee onboard the Starliner test flight, and he was to be joined by two NASA astronauts inside the capsule on its maiden flight.

But now the flight will be all NASA astronauts.

NASA’s Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who’s served two prior stints on the International Space Station,

Boeing astronaut withdraws himself from first crewed test flight of passenger spacecraft

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Boeing employee and former NASA astronaut Christopher Ferguson will no longer command the first crewed test flight of Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, slated to carry its first human passengers next year. NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore will take Ferguson’s place on the flight, riding along with the two other NASA astronauts already assigned to the mission.



Christopher Ferguson in a blue shirt: Chris Ferguson, after NASA announced his assignment to the Starliner mission


© (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Chris Ferguson, after NASA announced his assignment to the Starliner mission

In a video posted to Twitter, Ferguson said leaving the flight was a “difficult and personal decision” he had to make. “Next year is very important for my family,” he said in the video. “I have made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going into space next year.”

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“I have made several commitments which I simply cannot risk missing.”

Ferguson has been instrumental in the multiyear development of Boeing’s Starliner, a privately built crew capsule designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. Ferguson commanded the last flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle in 2011, before retiring from the agency that year. He then joined Boeing and became director of crew and mission systems for the Starliner program. In 2018, Ferguson was assigned as commander of the first crewed flight test of Starliner, along with astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke who would be joining as crewmates. Since he is technically no longer a NASA astronaut, Ferguson would have become the first private citizen to fly on a privately made spacecraft to orbit.

NASA and Boeing had planned for Starliner’s first crewed flight to happen as soon as this year, but the flight has been significantly delayed due to problems with the program. In December 2019, Boeing launched the Starliner on its

Cargo Spacecraft Carrying New Toilet to ISS Finally Launches

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After several scrubbed attempts, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket has taken off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, launching an uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying a total of 8,000 pounds of crew supplies and science experiments for the ISS.

The mission had been expected to originally launch on Tuesday, September 29, but this had to be pushed back due to unfavorable weather conditions. The new launch date was set for Thursday, October 1, and the rocket was fueled and ready to go but was then scrubbed again after an issue with ground support equipment. The launch was pushed back once more to late on Friday, October 2, and this time the launch went ahead as planned at 9:16 p.m. ET.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches to the International Space Station on Oct. 2, 2020, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus spacecraft with 8,000 pounds of supplies and experiments.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches to the International Space Station on Oct. 2, 2020, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia. The rocket is carrying a Cygnus spacecraft with 8,000 pounds of supplies and experiments. NASA Wallops/Patrick Black

The Antares rocket made it safely into orbit and the Cygnus spacecraft deployed its solar array successfully. The craft is now traveling toward the space station, where it is expected to arrive at 5:20 a.m. ET on Monday, October 5. It will be captured using the station’s robotic arm, controlled by NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy, from where it will be installed onto the station’s Unity module.

Included on the Cygnus are a new crop of radishes to be grown in the microgravity of the space station in order to learn more about how plants grow in space and to provide more nutritious and fresh food for astronauts in the future, an investigation into drugs used to treat leukemia which could be made

Watch live Friday! Antares rocket to launch NASA cargo on Cygnus spacecraft

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Update: NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting Friday night (Oct. 2) for the launch of the Cygnus NG-14 mission atop its Antares rocket. Liftoff is set for 9:16 p.m. EDT (0116 GMT), pending the resolution of tonight’s launch abort.

Original post: 

On Thursday, Oct. 1, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship carrying nearly 4 tons of NASA cargo will launch toward the International Space Station from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. 

A Northrop Grumman-built Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus spacecraft on the CRS-14 (or NG-14) mission from Pad OA at Wallops at 9:38 p.m. EDT (0138 GMT). The mission has been delayed from Sept. 29 due to bad weather. NASA’s webcast will begin at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT). 

Antares rocket launch for NASA visible along the US East Coast tonight. Here’s how to watch.

NASA commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman is targeting 9:38 p.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 1, for the launch of its 14th resupply mission to the International Space Station. Live coverage of the launch from Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, with prelaunch events Monday, Sept. 28, and Thursday, Oct. 1.

Loaded with nearly 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft will launch on the company’s Antares rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed the SS Kalpana Chawla, will arrive at the space station Sunday, Oct. 4. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will grapple Cygnus and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos will act as a backup. After Cygnus capture, mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s robotic arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module. Cygnus