Sonntag, 25. Dezember 2016 - 23:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt-History - 1982 Space-Shuttle STS-4 Columbia




Mission: Department of Defense/Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES)  
Space Shuttle: Columbia
Launch Pad: 39A 
Launched: June 27, 1982 at 11:00:00 a.m. EDT
Launch Weight: 241,664 pounds
Landing Site: Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Landing: July 4, 1982 at 9:09:31 a.m. PDT
Runway: 22
Rollout Distance: 9,878 feet
Rollout Time: 73 seconds
Revolution: 113
Mission Duration: 7 days, 1 hour, 9 minutes and 31 seconds 
Returned to KSC: July 15, 1982 
Orbit Altitude: 197 nautical miles
Orbit Inclination: 28.5 degrees
Miles Traveled: 2.9 million 

Crew Members

                   STS-4 Crew Photograph

Image above: STS-4 Crew photo with Commander Thomas K. Mattingly II and Pilot Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. Image Credit: NASA 

Mission Highlights

STS-4 Mission PatchThe Final Space Transportation System research and development flight. In addition to classified Department of Defense payload, cargo included first Get Away Specials, (G-001) which contained nine experiments from Utah State University; first commercial experiment involving Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES); Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR); Induced Environment Contamination Monitor (IECM), which was deployed, and two Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiments. Crew performed medical experiments on themselves for two student projects, operated remote manipulator arm to swing IECM around orbiter, and took photos of lightning activity in Earth's atmosphere. Two solid rocket booster casings were lost when main parachutes failed and they impacted the water and sank. Some rainwater penetrated protective coating of several tiles while orbiter on pad. On orbit, affected area turned toward sun and water vaporized, preventing further tile damage from freezing water. 


NASA-Video-Frams von STS-4 Columbia Mission:












































































Quelle: NASA



Sonntag, 25. Dezember 2016 - 10:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt-History - 1982 Space-Shuttle STS-3 Columbia



Mission: Third Shuttle Mission/Office of Space Science-1(OSS-1)  
Space Shuttle: Columbia
Launch Pad: 39A 
Launched: March 22, 1982 at 11:00:00 a.m. EST
Launch Weight: 235,415 pounds
Landing Site: White Sands, New Mexico
Landing: March 30, 1982 at 9:04:46 a.m. MST
Runway: 17 - Northrup Strip
Rollout Distance: 13,732 feet
Rollout Time: 83 seconds
Revolution: 130
Mission Duration: 8 days, 0 hours, 4 minutes and 46 seconds 
Returned to KSC: April 6, 1982 
Orbit Altitude: 147 nautical miles
Orbit Inclination: 38.0 degrees
Miles Traveled: 3.335 million 

Crew Members

                   Crew photo of STS-3

Image above: STS-3 Crew photo with Commander Jack R. Lousma Pilot C. Gordon Fullerton. Back-up crew members for this mission were, Thomas K. Mattingly II and Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. Image Credit: NASA 

Mission Objectives

STS-3 Mission PatchDemonstrate safe re-launch and safe return of the orbiter and crew. Verify the combined performance of the entire shuttle vehicle - orbiter, solid rocket boosters and external tank.

Payloads included the 8,740 lbs. Office of Space Science (OSS-1) Pallet consisting of the Plant Lignification Experiment, the Plasma Diagnostic Package (PDP), the Vehicle Charging and Potential (VCAP) experiment, the Space Shuttle Induced Atmosphere experiment, the Thermal Canister experiment, the Solar Flare X-Ray Polarimeter, the Solar Ultraviolet and Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SUSIM), the Contamination Monitor Package and the Foil Microabrasion Package. Also in the payload bay was the 11,048 lbs. Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) Pallet and the 448 lbs. Aerodynamic Coefficient Identification Package (ACIP).

The crew compartment housed the Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) experiment and the Heflex Bioengineering Test (HBT) experiment.

Mission Highlights

The launch was delayed one hour due to failure of a heater on the nitrogen gas ground support line.

Testing continued of space shuttle systems for qualification for operational flights. Testing of remote manipulator system and measurements of thermal response of orbiter in various attitudes to sun conducted. Get Away Special test canister and Spacelab pallet-mounted experiments for NASA's Office of Space Science-1 (OSS-1) carried in payload bay. OSS-1 obtained data on near-Earth space environment, including contamination (gases, dust, etc.) introduced into space by orbiter itself. Other experiments: Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR), Electrophoresis Equipment Verification Test (EEVT), Heflex Bioengineering Test (HBT) and first Shuttle Student Involvement Program (SSIP) experiment. Problems encountered: space sickness, malfunctioning toilet, thermostat difficulty and unexplained static interfering with crew sleep. Auxiliary power unit registered overheating during ascent, but functioned properly during descent. Three communications links were lost. 


With Space Shuttle Columbia mounted firmly atop, NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 kicks up clouds of gypsum dust as it lifts off Northrup Strip at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on April 6, 1982 to ferry Columbia back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crewed by NASA astronauts Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton on its third orbital test mission, Columbia had been diverted from its planned landing at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California due to bad weather the previous week having left Edwards' lakebed runways too soggy to support a shuttle landing. It was the only space shuttle landing to occur at White Sands over the course of the 30-year, 135-mission shuttle program.


Frams von Start und Landung von STS-3 NASA-Video:






White Sands





Vorbereitungen für Landung von Columbia in White Sands






















Shuttle-Glühen zum ersten Male...















Anflug von Columbia auf White Sands























"Bessere Ankunft als zukünftige SplashDown-Rückkehr..."




Quelle: NASA



Sonntag, 25. Dezember 2016 - 09:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Piers Sellers: Britischer Astronaut stirbt im Alter von 61 Jahren



Piers Sellers: UK-born astronaut dies aged 61

Image captionNasa praised Piers Sellers for his "curiosity and drive to uncover new knowledge"

British-born astronaut Piers Sellers has died of pancreatic cancer, aged 61, Nasa has said. 

Born in Crowborough, East Sussex, Dr Sellers began working for the US space agency as a scientist in 1982 before joining its astronaut corps in 1996. 

The climate expert made three Space Shuttle flights to the International Space Station, between 2002 and 2010.

Nasa said Dr Sellers, who was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in 2015, died in Houston on Friday.

British astronaut Tim Peake - who completed a six-month mission on the International Space Station in June - tweeted that he was "saddened to hear the loss" of Dr Sellers, and added he was a "true inspiration".

Dr Sellers became a naturalised US citizen in 1991, making him eligible for the space programme.

In January this year, he wrote a op-ed article for the New York Times about grappling with the meaning of the earth's fragility after learning he had terminal cancer.

He later shared an astronaut's perspective on climate change in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary, Before the Flood.

The Piers I knew - Jonathan Amos, BBC science correspondent

When given a terminal cancer diagnosis, many people draw up a "bucket list" - a series of places or activities they want to experience before they die. Piers rejected such an idea; he simply wanted to keep on working at his job for as long as he could. After all, that job had already afforded him the opportunity to do and see things most others could only dream of. 

Ever thoughtful, supremely engaging - it was always a pleasure to talk to him, whether that was about his passion for Earth science or the exhilaration he felt doing a spacewalk (his six spacewalks are the most to be completed by any Briton). 

Having left Britain to become a US citizen in order to pursue his ambition of being an astronaut, you might think he had left thoughts of his country of birth far behind. But whenever we spoke by phone there was always a long preamble in which he would first want to hear news of the UK, its people and politics. 

We use trite sayings on such occasions like "he had a great innings" - and he did. But with Piers there was a sense also that he was at the start of something big with his newfound voice in climate advocacy. Very definitely there was some unfinished business, and I strongly urge you to read his extraordinary op-ed article in the New York Times last January.

In a statement, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden paid tribute to Dr Sellers, the deputy director of the agency's sciences and exploration division in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"Piers was dedicated to all facets of exploration," he said. 

"His curiosity and drive to uncover new knowledge was generously shared with audiences around the world, both from space and in wide travels to reach as many people as possible with an essential understanding of our fragile planet."

Many of the scientist's former colleagues have paid tribute to Dr Sellers online. 

US astronaut Garrett Reisman - who flew with Dr Sellers on a 2010 Atlantis Space Shuttle mission - shared a picture of the pair on the International Space Station. 

He wrote that the Edinburgh-educated scientist "was the best of us". 


Former ISS assembly manager Beth Moses shared a picture of Dr Sellers on a spacewalk in 2002, when he helped install trusses on to the space station, and added the scientist was filled with "eternal optimism and laughter". 

Beth Moses tweetImage copyrightTWITTER

Six spacewalks

Dr Sellers earned a degree in ecology from the University of Edinburgh and a doctorate in biometeorology from the University of Leeds before moving to the US. 

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said: "He cared deeply about our fragile planet and the people who inhabit it - his outstanding work and our fond memories of him will continue to inspire future generations."

In 2002, Dr Sellers became only the third Briton to go into space - after Helen Sharman and Michael Foale - when he completed an 11-day mission to the International Space Station.

His journey aboard the shuttle Atlantis saw him carry out three spacewalks to help continue the assembly of the ISS.

Dr Sellers's next flight was aboard Discovery in 2006, a mission designed to test improved safety measures following the 2003 Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts died.

Piers Sellers in 2006
Image captionPiers Sellers talks to reporters after his return on the Discovery in 2006

In May 2010, Dr Sellers boarded Atlantis for a second time to deliver a Russian-built module to the space station.

In total, he logged hundreds of hours in space on his three shuttle flights, including six spacewalks, according to his Nasa biography.

In 2011, he was appointed an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. 

In July this year, Dr Sellers was awarded Nasa's Distinguished Service Medal, the agency's highest honour.

Quelle: BBC


Samstag, 24. Dezember 2016 - 17:00 Uhr

Astronomie - Erstes Weltraum-Observatorium in Zentral-Vietnam eröffnet


First space observatory to open in central Vietnam 

HANOI,  Vietnam will open its first-ever astronomical observatory in central Khanh Hoa province in March 2017, according to the Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC) on Wednesday.

The observatory, built on a rocky area called Hon Chong in Khanh Hoa's Nha Trang City, some 1,040 km south of capital Hanoi, is in the finishing stage and will be ready for a pilot run by the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, said the VNSC.

Its official opening is scheduled in March next year.

VNSC director Pham Anh Tuan said Wednesday that a space telescope with 0.5-meter diameter will be installed inside a dome with 9-meter diameter. The dome can accommodate up to 60 people who come to observe space or watch movies about planets, stars and the history of the Earth.

Hon Chong observatory is one of the two observatory projects in Vietnam, costing a total of 120 billion Vietnamese dong (5.3 million U.S. dollars). The other one is under construction inside the Vietnam Space Museum in Hanoi's Hoa Lac High-Tech Park.

Both the observatory and the museum, which will open for visitors in mid-2018, are part of the VNSC project, the largest-ever national scientific project in the country with investment of some 600 million U.S. dollars, reported Vietnam News.

Quelle: Xinhua


Samstag, 24. Dezember 2016 - 17:00 Uhr

Astronomie - NASA Webb Telescope bekommt seine Gestalt - Update-8


Final Sunshield Layer Completed for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope


The last of the five sunshield layers responsible for protecting the optics and instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete.


JWST at Northrup Grumman
James Webb Space Telescope’s sunshield at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach, California. The sunshield is the size of a tennis court and will make it possible for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to image the formation of stars and galaxies created more than 13.5 billion years ago.
Credits: Northrop Grumman

Designed by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, the Webb telescope’s sunshield will prevent the background heat from the sun from interfering with the telescope’s infrared sensors. The five sunshield membrane layers, designed and manufactured by the NeXolve Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama, are each as thin as a human hair. The layers work together to reduce the temperatures between the hot and cold sides of the observatory by approximately 570 degrees Fahrenheit. Each successive layer of the sunshield, made of kapton, is cooler than the one below. The fifth and final layer was delivered on Sept. 29, 2016 to Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach.


“The completed sunshield membranes are the culmination of years of collaborative effort by the NeXolve, Northrop Grumman and NASA team," said James Cooper, Webb telescope Sunshield manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "All five layers are beautifully executed and exceed their requirements. This is another big milestone for the Webb telescope project.”


Northrop Grumman, who also designed the Webb telescope’s optics and spacecraft bus for NASA Goddard will integrate the final flight layers into the sunshield subsystem to conduct folding and deployment testing as part of the final system validation process.


“The groundbreaking sunshield design will assist in providing the imaging of the formation of stars and galaxies more than 13.5 billion years ago,” said Jim Flynn, Webb sunshield manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “The delivery of this final flight sunshield membrane is a significant milestone as we prepare for 2018 launch.”


The sunshield is the size of a tennis court, helping solidify the Webb telescope as the largest ever built for space. The sunshield, along with the rest of the spacecraft, will fold origami-style into an Ariane 5 rocket.


“The five tennis court-sized sunshield membranes took more than three years to complete and represents a decade of design, development and manufacturing,” said Greg Laue, sunshield program manager at NeXolve.


The Webb telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will observe distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Quelle: NASA


Update: 2.11.2016


James Webb Space Telescope Mirrors Will Piece Together Cosmic Puzzles

Webb Telescope honeycomb-shaped primary mirror upright in clean room

The primary mirror of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope consisting of 18 hexagonal mirrors looks like a giant puzzle piece standing in the massive clean room of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Appropriately, combined with the rest of the observatory, the mirrors will help piece together puzzles scientists have been trying to solve throughout the cosmos.

Webb's primary mirror will collect light for the observatory in the scientific quest to better understand our solar system and beyond. Using these mirrors and Webb's infrared vision scientists will peer back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe. Unprecedented infrared sensitivity will help astronomers to compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today's grand spirals and ellipticals, helping us to understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years. Webb will see behind cosmic dust clouds to see where stars and planetary systems are being born. It will also help reveal information about atmospheres of planets outside our solar system, and perhaps even find signs of the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe.

The Webb telescope was mounted upright after a "center of curvature" test conducted at Goddard. This initial center of curvature test ensures the integrity and accuracy, and test will be repeated later to verify those same properties after the structure undergoes launch environment testing. In the photo, two technicians stand before the giant primary mirror.


NASA Completes Webb Telescope Center of Curvature Pre-test

Engineers and technicians working on the James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed the first important optical measurement of Webb’s fully assembled primary mirror, called a Center of Curvature test.


Engineers conduct a
Engineers conduct a white light inspection on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

Taking a “before” optical measurement of the telescope’s deployed mirror is crucial before the telescope goes into several stages of rigorous mechanical testing. These tests will simulate the violent sound and vibration environments the telescope will experience inside its rocket on its way out into space. This environment is one of the most stressful structurally and could alter the shape and alignment of Webb’s primary mirror, which could degrade or, in the worst case, ruin its performance. 


Webb has been designed and constructed to withstand its launch environment, but it must be tested to verify that it will indeed survive and not change in any unexpected way. Making the same optical measurements both before and after simulated launch environment testing and comparing the results is fundamental to Webb’s development, assuring that it will work in space.


“This is the only test of the entire mirror where we can use the same equipment during a before and after test,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, the test lead and NASA’s Deputy Telescope Manager for Webb at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This test will show if there are any changes or damages to the optical system.”


In order to conduct the test, optical engineers set up an interferometer, the main device used to measure the shape of Webb’s mirror. Waves of visible light are less than a thousandth of a millimeter long, and optics like Webb’s need to be shaped and aligned even more accurately than this to work correctly. Making measurements of the mirror shape and position by lasers prevents physical contact and damage (scratches to the mirror).  So scientists use wavelengths of light to make tiny measurements. By measuring light reflected off the optics using an interferometer, they are able to measure extremely small changes in shape or position.  An interferometer gets its name from the process of recording and measuring the ripple patterns that result when different beams of light mix and their waves combine or ‘interfere.’ 


Engineers conduct a "Center of Curvature" test on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

During the test conducted by a team from NASA Goddard, Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado, and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore Maryland, temperature and humidity conditions in the cleanroom were kept incredibly stable to minimize drift in the sensitive optical measurements over time.  Even so, tiny vibrations are ever-present in the cleanroom that cause jitter during measurements, so the interferometer is a ‘high-speed’ one, taking 5,000 ‘frames’ every second, which is a faster rate than the background vibrations themselves. This allows engineers to subtract out jitter and get good, clean results.


The Center of Curvature test measures the shape of Webb’s main mirror by comparing light reflected off of it with light from a computer-generated hologram that represents what Webb’s mirror ideally should be. By interfering the beam of light from Webb with the beam from the hologram reference, the interferometer accurately compares the two by measuring the difference to incredible precision.  “Interferometry using a computer-generated hologram is a classic modern optical test used to measure mirrors,” said Keski-Kuha.


With the largest mirror of any space telescope, taking this measurement is a challenge. “We have spent the last four years preparing for this test,” said David Chaney, Webb’s primary mirror metrology lead at Goddard. “The challenges of this test include the large size of the primary mirror, the long radius of curvature, and the background noise. Our test is so sensitive we can measure the vibrations of the mirrors due to people talking in the room.”


After the measurements come back from the interferometer the team will analyze the data to make sure the mirrors are aligned perfectly before the launch environment tests. The Center of Curvature test will be repeated after the launch environment testing and the results compared to confirm that Webb’s optics will work after their launch into space.


The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Quelle: NASA


The James Webb Space Telescope: Humanity’s Eye Into the Universe

Posted on  by .

There are some moments that will stay with you your entire life.  I’d be willing to bet that most of the people with whom I spent this morning at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center would put the experience in that category.  You see, we were able to see with our own eyes the amazing progress that’s being made on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will soon be humanity’s eye into the secrets and mysteries of the universe.

Administrator Bolden showcases the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Administrator Bolden showcases the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Just recently, we completed the first important optical measurement of JWST’s segmented mirror, called a Center of Curvature test, to measure the shape of Webb’s mirror before it goes into the testing chambers.  We also just finished the sunshield layers, which will protect Webb’s sensitive instruments from the sun once it’s in space.

As we reach for new heights for the benefit of all humankind, NASA has always sought to unravel the mysteries of our universe; to find out where we come from, where we are going, and whether we are alone in the universe.

We are building the James Webb Space Telescope to answer these age-old questions and to bring us to new heights in discovery, understanding and human progress.  Webb will allow us to explore ever further into the cosmos, seeing things far beyond the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope.  It will see the universe light up with the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang and study the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

Webb will help us search for signs of life and learn more about the habitability of planets discovered by our fleet of planet hunters and world explorers, including Kepler and the upcoming Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.  Webb will also help us understand the evolution and composition of our own Solar System, from the icy moons around Jupiter and Saturn, to known comets and asteroids.  It will help us on our Journey to Mars by helping us understand more about the Red Planet, including Martian climate patterns.

Upon completion, Webb will be the largest and most complex space observatory that anyone on planet Earth has ever built.  At about the size of a tennis court, it will be folded origami-style to fit in the Ariane 5 rocket (about 5 meters wide), and will unfurl in cryogenic temperatures where materials behave in ways that defy everything we’re used to on Earth.  It will be launched from French Guiana in 2018.

Even before Webb allows us to rewrite textbooks and answer questions we have not yet thought to ask, it is already shattering the boundaries of space technology.  What’s more, it is changing the field of materials science.

Webb is the work of our nation, with more than 120 American universities, organizations, and companies in 27 states coast to coast (including Hawaii) bringing together some of the brightest minds in our country to make Webb a reality.  Webb’s findings will be incorporated into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education worldwide, inspiring future generations of explorers, scientists and engineers.  It will capture the imagination and dreams of millions who dare to look to the sky and wonder.

At the same time, it is an international collaboration — a partnership among NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).  NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is managing the development effort.  Northrop Grumman is the main industry partner and the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “In a real sense all life is inter-related.  All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”  One might also say that we are in a web of mutuality … a “Webb” (pun intended) that has the potential to unite the world in understanding, discovery and awe.

Quelle: NASA


Update: 5.11.2016


NASA is trying to keep part of its giant golden telescope a secret

james webb space telescope golden mirror person nasa gsfc

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center




NASA on Wednesday announced a huge milestone in its $8.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope mission: the completion of the observatory's gigantic golden mirror.


To commemorate the moment, the space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center released a dramatic video about the telescope on YouTube.

"The efforts of thousands of people across the United States, Canada, and Europe, for almost two decades achieved this milestone," the narrator said. "Getting to this point wasn't easy. ... Before astrophysicists' dreams of building Webb could be realized, 10 technologies that did not exist needed to be created and perfected. They were."

The video shows off many of those revolutionary technologies, including lightweight support structures, sensors, and more.

But we noticed that a crucial part of the telescope — about a minute and 30 seconds into the video — is blurred out beyond recognition:



In case that's hard to see, here's a labeled screenshot:

jwst blurred mirror segment labeled

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; Business Insider



And let's zoom in on that a bit:

jwst blurred mirror segment labeled

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; Business Insider



We provided the first image to Lynn Chandler, a NASA representative for JWST, and asked why the part circled in red was blurred out.

"This technology is proprietary. The government must respect the intellectual property of its industry partners," Chandler told Business Insider in an email.

We then asked which company made the blurred-out part, and requested more details about it and its role in JWST's mission — which, by the way, is to study objects at the edge of the universe and quite possibly the air around Earth-like exoplanets.

"That is the secondary mirror support structure with the secondary mirror on it, which includes details of mirror mounts," Chandler said. "The secondary mirror relays light from the primary mirror and does optical correction."

For reference, below is JWST's secondary mirror with its convex, gold-plated surface. It's a critical part. It takes all of the giant primary mirror's light and focuses it onto a third mirror inside the telescope's housing, which then bounces it into a suite of detectors. Presto, images of the universe.

The blurred-out part on the backside, which you can't see, is noted by the arrow:

jwst secondary mirror nasa labeledNASA/Chris Gunn



NASA declined to tell us which company made the blurred-out part, saying that information is an International Traffic in Arms Regulations issue. (More on this jargon in a moment.)

However, we know Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor that designed the spacecraft, and Ball Aerospace built the secondary mirror.

Lon Rains, a Northrop Grumman representative, declined to comment further and asked us to direct our questions to NASA. Ball Aerospace did not immediately respond.

Wait: Why is a mirror considered a weapon?

james webb space telescope mirror reflection nasa



Why is the back of a mirror on a taxpayer-funded scientific observatory considered an "arm" that must be regulated?


Probably because of spy satellites.

After all, if your telescope can see as sharply as Hubble, yet resolve objects 10 to 100 times dimmer — as JWST should be able to do — that could be useful for peering down at human activity on Earth. And the US government wants to maintain any edge it can over the militaries of countries like China and Russia.

In fact, if you're working in the US — or for the country — on anything that could be even remotely considered a weapon, including a do-it-yourself spacesuit, you have to make sure it's not on the Department of State's ITAR munitions list. Otherwise you might have to pay up to $1,094,010 and possibly face jail time for each violation.

ITAR experts are common inside companies and agencies that work with space technologies, so one of them at NASA probably reviewed their video and said "this part has to be blurred out" to avoid a violation.

"It's basically caution about space hardware details being released by the US government," Anand Sivaramakrishnan, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland (which works closely with the JWST mission), told Business Insider.

"If I had a piece of space hardware in my room, I may not be allowed to have a foreigner come into my room" per ITAR regulations, Sivaramakrishnan said. "I couldn't let him or her touch it."

What isn't being shown?

james webb space telescope golden mirror complete nasa gsfc

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


Though we're not in the aerospace business, we don't want to violate ITAR — and possibly pay a million dollars.


But we can describe what's back there, generally speaking. (Note: There is a moment in the NASA video that does appear to show the back of the secondary mirror.)

So what is it?

Sivaramakrishnan said it's probably the support structure for the mirror, plus a cluster of motorized actuators that can move it.

You're already familiar with mirror actuators if you've driven a modern car. They're what whir when you fiddle with a side-mirror adjustment knob. But where automobile actuators typically have only two actuators and degrees of freedom — side to side, and up and down — each of JWST's mirrors has six degrees of freedom.

Sivaramakrishnan said the cluster of six actuators is called a hexapod.

"If you take a computer keyboard and hold it in space, it needs six numbers to describe where it is in space," he said. That's up and down, forward and backward, side to side, and a rotational aspect to each one. "So if you want to put a mirror in the exact right location, you have to specify that. And that's a hexapod."

The precision you need in a space telescope in mind-bogglingly precise, though. And JWST has 19 gold-plated mirrors with a hexapod a piece.

Sivaramakrishnan said the tolerance — or error in distance — that the primary mirror of JWST can only be off by 140 nanometers, or just larger than the width of an HIV virus. Any more, and there could be huge problems with the focus and exposure.

The hardware required to do this on JWST is "fancy," he said, and "the details are under restriction."

So if you'd like to find out more, now is as good a time as any to work toward your aerospace engineering degree and get a job at NASA or one of its contractors. Good luck!

Quelle: Bussines Insider Deutschland


Update: 28.11.2016


Some Assembly Required: New Space Telescope Will Take Shape After Launch


The huge sun shield of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope must be carefully folded to fit into a space about the size of a school bus before takeoff.

Chris Gunn/NASA

The next generation of great space telescopes is heading into its final round of ground tests. The nearly $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope. It's designed to provide unprecedented images of the earliest stars and galaxies that formed in the universe.

But before the telescope can get to work, there are still a lot of engineering challenges to overcome.

For example, the Webb telescope is designed to look at the infrared wavelengths of light given off by stars. Infrared is needed to see some of the earliest stars and galaxies that formed billions of years ago.

But to work properly, infrared telescopes have to be kept cold — very cold. So engineers had to design a multilayered sun shield to protect the telescope from the sun's heat.

"That's like a big umbrella — beach umbrella — so, we keep that facing the sun and the Earth so it dissipates all the heat through all the layers," says Begoña Vila, an astrophysicist and systems engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md. "That allows all the instruments to cool to the temperatures that we need."

Now, the sun shield is big, about the size of a tennis court, and for launch it has to fit into a much smaller space — about the size of a school bus. So engineers had to come up with a way to fold it up. They also had to design a way to fold up the main mirror, and several other critical instruments.


An artist's rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope's silver, umbrella-shape heat shield will be the size of a tennis court, engineers say. It's crucial to keep cool the instruments that detect infrared light from distant stars.

Northrop Grumman/NASA

Then, after launch, everything has to unfold in a carefully choreographed sequence of steps over two weeks. You can see that sequence in this video.

Many of the steps are absolutely crucial. A failure would compromise the telescope's functionality and could render it useless. For the army of scientists and engineers who have been working on the telescope for nearly two decades, the deployment phase will be nerve-wracking.

"Yes, I think that scares all of us," says Vila. But there's no way around it. "We do as much testing as we can."

The Webb telescope has had a difficult history. It is over budget and behind schedule, and Congress nearly killed the project earlier in the decade. The telescope is scheduled to launch in October 2018. We should know later that year whether the engineering challenges were successfully cleared.

Quelle: npr


Update: 30.11.2016


NASA's Webb Telescope Clean Room 'Transporter'

Webb Telescope in clean room with tent being lowered over mirrors

What looks like a teleporter from science fiction being draped over NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, is actually a "clean tent." The clean tent protects Webb from dust and dirt when engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland transport the next generation space telescope out of the relatively dust-free cleanroom and into the shirtsleeve environment of the vibration and acoustics testing areas. In two years, a rocket will be the transporter that carries the Webb into space so it can orbit one million miles from Earth and peer back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.

Quelle: NASA


Update: 21.12.2016


Engineers detect anomaly during testing of James Webb Space Telescope

An unknown problem occurred during vibration tests to simulate launch conditions.

It's never a good thing when an anomaly is detected in your scientific instrument during pre-operational testing. When that instrument is the James Webb Space Telescope—which is expected to cost about $8.8 billion, cannot be fixed after launch, and is counted upon to provide insights about the earliest days of the Universe—it's cause for significant concern.

The anomaly occurred earlier this month, on December 3, during vibration testing at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. As part of the run-up to a launch in late 2018, the telescope will be subjected to all manner of conditions, from extreme temperatures to a hard vacuum, to ensure that it will survive during its five- to 10-year mission in deep space. The telescope must also withstand its launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, and the vibration test mimicked the shaking and gravitational forces of launch. After the test began, accelerometers detected "anomalous readings," but so far the cause of the anomaly has yet to be determined.

"Further tests to identify the source of the anomaly are underway," the agency stated in an update. "The engineering team investigating the vibe anomaly has made numerous detailed visual inspections of the Webb telescope and has found no visible signs of damage. They are continuing their analysis of accelerometer data to better determine the source of the anomaly. They have conducted a low-level vibration of the hardware to measure its responses, and are comparing the results with data obtained prior to the anomaly. Engineers are currently running diagnostics to determine the cause and to assess any potential impacts."

The oldest and most distant objects in the Universe are moving away from Earth the fastest, so they have the largest red shift, best viewed in the infrared spectrum. The Webb telescope will specialize in the infrared and, therefore, should capture images of the Universe's first stars and galaxies, which formed only 200 million years after the Big Bang.

This telescope is vitally important to the astronomy community because of its unique capabilities for a space-based telescope and also because Webb has cost so much it has had a deleterious effect on other parts of NASA's science budget. It is too big to fail.

Quelle: ars TECHNICA


Update: 24.12.2016


No damage to JWST after vibration test anomaly


SANTA FE, N.M. — NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows no signs of damage after an “anomaly” during a vibration test earlier in the month, the agency announced Dec. 23.

In a statement posted on the JWST web site, NASA said that engineers were making progress tracking down the root cause of the Dec. 3 incident that halted vibration testing of the telescope’s mirror assembly and instruments, known as the Optical Telescope element and Integrated Science (OTIS).

“All visual and ultrasonic examinations of the [telescope] structure continue to show it to be sound,” NASA said in the update. “Currently, the team is continuing their analyses with the goal of having a review of their findings, conclusions and plans for resuming vibration testing in January.”

The OTIS assembly, which includes the telescope’s 6.5-meter segmented primary mirror, secondary mirror and associated structures, and its suite of four science instruments, were undergoing vibration testing at the Goddard Space Flight Center Dec. 3 when engineers detected “anomalous readings” from accelerometers attached to the telescope. NASA halted the vibration tests to study the data as well as inspect the telescope for any damage.

NASA has not provided additional details on the nature of the vibration anomaly. The agency said in its latest update that, since the anomaly, the spacecraft team “successfully conducted two low level vibrations of the telescope.”

The vibration tests, as well as planned acoustic tests, are designed to simulate the environment JWST will experience during its launch on an Ariane 5 in late 2018. “We are about to subject this beautiful beast, which is finished, to see if it will survive launch,” said John Mather, the JWST senior project scientist, at a Nov. 2 media event at Goddard about the telescope. “We expect it to, but we still have to prove it.”

It’s unclear that effect the delay in the vibration and acoustic testing will have on JWST’s schedule. At the November event, Bill Ochs, NASA JWST project manager, said plans then called for shipping OTIS in February to the Johnson Space Center, where it will undergo thermal vacuum tests in a refurbished Apollo-era chamber there. It would then go in mid-2017 to a Northrop Grumman facility in Southern California to be integrated with the spacecraft bus and sunshield, and then undergo further testing before shipping to the French Guiana launch site in mid-2018.

However, project officials have emphasized that JWST has healthy schedule reserves put into place after a “replan” of the project in 2011, when cost and schedule overruns threatened JWST with cancellation. Those reserves are intended to mitigate any effect on the mission’s overall schedule from testing delays.

The replan provided JWST more schedule margin than required for a typical NASA project “because it’s Webb and we knew there would be additional complications,” said Scott Willoughby, Northrop Grumman vice president and program manager for JWST, in an interview at the Nov. 2 NASA event. “We’re right in line to where we need to be at this point in time, with two years to go before launch.”

Quelle: SN





Samstag, 24. Dezember 2016 - 09:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt-History - 1981 Space-Shuttle STS-2 Columbia


Mission: Second Shuttle Mission/Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications-1 (OSTA-1)  
Space Shuttle: Columbia
Launch Pad: 39A 
Launched: Nov. 12, 1981 at 10:09:59 a.m. EST
Launch Weight: 320,708 pounds
Landing Site: Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Landing: Nov. 14, 1981 at 1:23:11 p.m. PST 
Runway: 23
Rollout Distance: 7,711 feet
Rollout Time: 53 seconds
Revolution: 37
Mission Duration: 2 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 12 seconds 
Returned to KSC: Nov. 25, 1981 
Orbit Altitude: 157 nautical miles
Orbit Inclination: 38.0 degrees
Miles Traveled: 1.075 million 

Crew Members

                   STS-2 Shuttle Crew during the terminal countdown demonstration test (TCDT).



Image above: STS-2 Crew photo with Commander Joe H. Engle, Pilot Richard H. Truly and back up crew members, Thomas K. Mattingly II and Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr. Image Credit: NASA 

Mission Objectives

STS-2 Mission PatchDemonstrate safe re-launch and safe return of the orbiter and crew. Verify the combined performance of the entire shuttle vehicle - orbiter, solid rocket boosters and external tank.

Payloads included the Orbital Flight Test Pallet consisting of the Measurement of Air Pollution from Satellite (MAPS) experiment, the Shuttle Multispectral Infrared Radiometer (SMIRR) experiment, the Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR-A) experiment, the Features Identification and Location Experiment (FILE) and the Ocean Color Experiment (OCE). Also included was the 11,048 lb. Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) pallet, the Aerodynamic Coefficient Identification Package (ACIP), the Induced Environment Contamination Monitor (IECM) and the 5,395 lb. Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications Pallet (OSTA-1).

Mission Highlights

Launch originally set for Oct. 9 was rescheduled when a nitrogen tetroxide spill occurred during loading of the forward reaction control system. The launch scheduled for Nov. 4 delayed and then scrubbed when the countdown computer called for hold in the count due to an apparent low reading on fuel cell oxygen tank pressures. During the hold, high oil pressures were discovered in two of three auxiliary power units (APUs) that operate hydraulic system. APU gear boxes needed to be flushed and filters replaced, forcing the launch to reschedule. The launch on Nov. 12 delayed two hours, 40 minutes to replace the multiplexer/demultiplexer and additional nine minutes, 59 seconds to review systems status. 

Modifications of the water sound suppression system at the pad to absorb the solid rocket booster overpressure wave during launch were effective -- no tiles were lost and only 12 were damaged. 

The planned five-day mission was cut nearly three days due to failure of one of three fuel cells that produce electricity and drinking water, but 90 percent of mission objectives achieved, including first time remote manipulator system tests. Mission scientists were satisfied with data received from Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications-1 (OSTA-1) Earth observation experiments mounted on Spacelab pallet in payload bay.



S81-39499 (13 Nov. 1981) --- President Ronald Reagan is briefed by JSC Director Christopher C. Kraft Jr., who points toward the orbiter spotter on the projection plotter in the front of the mission operations control room in the Johnson Space Center's Mission Control Center. This picture was taken just prior to a space-to-ground conversation between STS-2 crew members Joe H. Engle and Richard H. Truly, who were orbiting Earth in the space shuttle Columbia. Photo credit: NASA


Frams von LiftOff STS-2:






































Quelle: NASA



Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 - 16:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung für Atlas V 541-Rakete mit NOAAs GOES-S Satelliten


Lockheed Martin Completes Assembly of NOAA's GOES-S Weather Satellite
Critical Environmental Testing Starts on Second GOES-R Series Satellite
Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the large GOES-S satellite for a critical acoustics test. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

DENVER, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has completed assembly of NOAA's GOES-S weather satellite and is now beginning critical mechanical and environmental testing of the spacecraft. GOES-S is the second of four next-generation geostationary weather satellites called the GOES-R series, and will provide a major improvement in our nation's weather observation capabilities leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings.

The GOES-S satellite is now undergoing environmental testing to simulate the conditions of launch and the extreme environment the satellite will experience in space. It recently completed a reverberant acoustics test and sine vibration test, both designed to expose the satellite to the sound and vibrations of a launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.

"Mechanical and environmental testing is an important time for the program," said Tim Gasparrini, vice president and GOES-R Series program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "This period validates the satellite's overall design, assembly workmanship, and survivability during launch and on-orbit operation in the cold vacuum of space."

In preparation for launch, the 20-foot-tall satellite will undergo a variety of tests including separation and deployment of solar arrays and antennas, shock tests, electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing, and thermal vacuum testing.

The first satellite in the series, GOES-R, was launched on Nov. 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It recently was moved into its geostationary orbit and is going through a comprehensive post-launch test and checkout phase. Now in orbit, NOAA has officially changed its name to GOES-16.

The GOES-R series satellites will provide higher-resolution images of weather patterns and severe storms five times faster than today, which will contribute to more accurate and reliable weather forecasts and severe weather outlooks. GOES-R data will support short-term weather forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions.

NOAA funds, manages and will operate the GOES-R Series satellites. NASA oversees the acquisition and development of the GOES-R spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicle. The program is co-located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Quelle: Lockheed Martin


Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 - 16:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Wie realistisch ist die Interstellare Raumfahrt?


The Starship Avalon, from the movie "Passengers" seems to have been inspired by some real-world science.
Credit: Sony Pictures

The movie "Passengers," which opened yesterday (Dec. 21), explores the fascinations and perils of interstellar travel, but could the kind of starship portrayed in the movie ever exist in real life?  

The film begins on board the Starship Avalon, which is carrying more than 5,000 passengers to a distant, habitable planet known as Homestead II. 

Travelling at half the speed of light, the crew and passengers are expected to hibernate for 120 years before arriving. That is, until somebody accidentally wakes up 90 years early.

Is there anything remotely realistic about this spaceship? posed that question to several space travel experts, as well as Guy Hendrix Dyas, the film's production designer. Dyas looked at the history of movie spaceships (including the vehicles from the "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" universes) in his quest to come up with something unique for the new film.

From ramjets to colony ships, see how interstellar spaceflight may work. [See the full Infographic on Interstellar Space Travel]
Credit: Karl Tate, 

The Avalon has three long, thin modules that wrap around a common center and spin (sort of like stripes on a barbershop pole). Dyas said he based that design on sycamore seeds. It appears that the spin also provides the ship with artificial gravity, similar to fictional ships in the movies "Interstellar" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." The ship is powered by eight nuclear fusion reactors, Dyas said, and can run autonomously, healing most systems even with the crew asleep (as seen in the film). 

The ship's immense structure is about 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) in length, and Dyas said he imagines that it was assembled in space over decades. The film takes place at an indeterminate point in the future, Dyas said, but he assumed that by the time the ship was being built, humans would have the ability to mine some of the materials from nearby asteroids or the moon to save on transportation costs.

"My approach to the [ship] design was that I tried to go about it as though I was a cruise liner ship designer," Dyas told "I wanted to put myself in the shoes of somebody who had been designing a craft that had a portion of it dedicated to entertainment, and of course that led to the array of colors and textual changes in the ship." 

This approach led Dyas to design the more functional areas (such as the mess hall) in stainless steel, while a classy passenger pub was decorated in rich oranges, golds and reds, for example.

Banks of hibernation pods occupy huge halls in the ship. The crew slumbers in separate quarters, inaccessible to the passengers. The pods are clustered into small groups, perhaps (Dyas suggests) so that if one group's cluster fails, at least the other 5,000 passengers are theoretically unaffected.

The hibernation procedure is not really described in the film, but what's clear to moviegoers is what happens afterward: passengers are soothed by a holographic figure explaining where they are. They are escorted to an elevator, then guided to their individual cabin, where they can relax for the last four months of the journey. 

In between resting in their quarters, passengers can also get to know the rest of the 5,000 people in common areas, such as the mess hall, the grand concourse, the pool or the bar.

The hibernation pods on the Starship Avalon in the movie
The hibernation pods on the Starship Avalon in the movie "Passengers." 
Credit: Sony Pictures 

While "Passengers" shows people placed in a hibernation state for decades at a time, that kind of technology does not exist today. There are situations, however, where patients can be put into induced comas with cooled saline solutions for a few days to allow traumatic injuries to heal. 

In 2015, a company called SpaceWorks received a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant to investigate the possibility of extending the timeframe of an induced stasis in humans even further than what is currently possible. Aerospace engineer John Bradford, the company's COO, told that induced stasis should be possible given that some mammals can hibernate for months. (NIAC grants are for early-stage work in far-off technologies.)

"We're not trying to extend the human lifetime," Bradford said, so the technology that SpaceWorks is pursuing is different from what is shown in "Passengers." But in other respects, the movie shows essentially the same thing his company strives for. 

"We're trying to put people in a small container to minimize the mass and power requirements, and the consumables [during spaceflight]," he added, saying that during a long Mars journey of perhaps six months, putting astronauts into stasis would cut down on the amount of food required for the mission, not to mention the possibility of crew boredom.

And what about exercise? Bradford said it would be possible to keep up an astronaut's muscle mass using neuromuscular electric stimulation; there have been some positive results in comatose patients using that technique, he said. 

Bradford said he had been lucky enough to see "Passengers" before its release, and that he was really pleased to see an emphasis on hibernation, and what happens in the moments after waking up, when the passengers are disoriented and extremely tired (since hibernation or stasis is not the same as sleep).

"That part of the storyline is usually jumped over," he said.



Nuclear fusion is a possible source of propulsion for interstellar ships, but the problem is the size of the reactors that would need to be assembled in space, or launched there, according to some scientists we talked to. So other methods are being considered to get spacecraft going at interstellar speeds.

One idea under consideration by Philip Lubin, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses lasers. Under another NIAC grant, he is developing a concept known as Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration, which would generate propulsion from laser photonsreflected in a mirror. The long-term goal is to create a spacecraft that can, like in "Passengers," move at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

Antimatter engines are another possibility for fueling interstellar ships, said Andreas Tziolas, the co-founder and president of Icarus Interstellar. Antimatter particles are naturally occurring particles that are "opposites" to regular matter particles — so the positron is the antimatter equivalent to the electron; the particles have the same mass but are different in other ways, including electric charge (the electron is negative, the positron is positive). When matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate, and release energy.

"The energy [an antimatter engine] generates is very pure in that it generates a lot of photons when matter reacts with antimatter," he told "All of the matter is annihilated and it turns into pure photonic energy. However, the photons themselves are hard to capture."

Though it's not stated directly it the film, it's possible the "Passengers" ship is being fueled by the interstellar medium — the tenuous collection of hydrogen particles that populate much of the universe. This concept was proposed in a 1960 thought experiment by American physicist Robert Bussard, who argued it would allow a ship to travel without having to haul fuel along for the ride. 

But there's a problem with that idea, according to Geoffrey Landis, a science fiction author and NASA physicist. Since 1960, scientists have discovered that the medium is too sparse to allow fusion to happen, Landis said.

"The idea was, if you don't carry your fuel with you, you might be able to avoid having a simply enormous fuel tank," he said. But with that theory debunked, the problem remains about how to get to such an incredible speed while still hauling fuel with you. [Does Humanity's Destiny Lie in Interstellar Space Travel? (Op-Ed)]

From a practical standpoint, Landis also agreed that a ship that size would likely have to be built largely in space, and that will probably require asteroid mining.

While asteroid mining is still in the future, there are a couple of companies that are getting started on prospecting. Both Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources have plans to scout out nearby asteroids to learn about their composition, and the possibilities for getting spacecraft out there. Asteroid-mining technology is in an early stage, but both companies are generating other products (such as Earth observation) that have received some support from customers.

Building a business case would take some time, but Landis said it would be very possible to create a spacecraft from extraterrestrial resources. 

"In the long term, if we're going to build these enormous habitats, we are going to have to build them from material in space," he said. "That's a very feasible idea. There's literally millions of asteroids out there from which we could harvest materials without having to drag it out of the gravity well of the Earth."

Landis also seemed to think that the Avalon creates gravity by rotating. 

"I'm getting a little tired of artificial gravity in 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars,'" he said, referring to the ability of the ships in these long-standing franchises to generate gravity by more theoretical means.

Experts interviewed for the story agreed that, in general, the ship also appears to take into account human factors, which means designing an environment so that it can best accommodate how humans operate. 

An example is how the environment is decorated. Even on the International Space Station, the sterile gray interior is populated with pictures, signs and other mementoes from past crews. Individual astronauts can decorate their quarters to their liking, so that they have family pictures to look at during their six-month missions. So the décor choices that Dyas made are important in real-world spaceflight as well.

Looking at previews for the movie, Tziolas said he thinks the Starship Avalon is similar to the concept that Icarus Interstellar has proposed for an interstellar spaceship. Called Project Hyperion, this craft also has cruise ship-like amenities, room for 5,000 passengers and a spinning design for artificial gravity.

Tziolas added that he is so pleased that Hollywood is getting more realistic with its ship designs in general.

So could the ship from Passengers really exist? Our experts seemed to agree that there are some aspects that reflect real-world science, but some key questions remain about how such a massive vessel would make an interstellar trek. 

Quelle: SC


Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 - 10:00 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - UFOlogie-Nukes Connection und ihr dünner Background


Underwhelming evidence

ASeptember posting on “The UFO Chronicles” web site by Robert Hastings took “debunkers” to task because they had not com- mented on his film. Hastings interpreted this to mean:

Given that the film presents several authenticated documents and on-camera interviews with vetted military witnesses, all discussing the reality of the decades-long UFO-Nukes Connection, perhaps the skeptics have finally realized the futility of their unceasing efforts to debunk the UFO-nukes link.

Nah, that can’t be it. This crowd will never admit—even to themselves—that their misguided, weak arguments are now untenable. May- be they are just lying low, realizing that they have nothing to gain by critiquing the film, in light of the overwhelming evidence it presents.1

Hastings is now on record that his film presents us with “overwhelming evidence” to the UFOs and Nukes connection. Prior to the film’s release, debunkers/skeptics were critical of his claims for many good reasons. While Hastings likes to criticize skeptics he often will ignore specifics in order to present only his version of events. The question on my mind, when I watched the film, was, “Would Hastings address the skeptics arguments in his film and would he provided new documentation to prove that some of these stories were true?”

Blowing your own horn

Another point raised by Robert Hastings in his rant about skeptics and his film was that his film has received “near-unanimous

praise” from everyone, who has viewed it. Considering the possibility that most of the viewers were UFO proponents, it would

be no surprise that he would receive favorable comments from people. However, do the facts really support his claim? The Vimeo site on the day I watched the film stated there were 4,835 “shares” on Facebook, 271 “recommendations”, and 12 comments.3 One of these was not that favorable:

Just mostly a very brief and recursive rehash of what i’ve seen before but with a bit more testimony, which is nice. However, this video isn’t really covering a lot of new material and, sorry to say, certainly not worth anywhere near the $13 i had to pay for it to watch it. Most of this material and lots more can be found on the internet in various places for free. I wish i had known - i wouldn’t buy this given what i know now, so buyer beware. This documentary should have been a lot longer and should have had a lot more previously undisclosed information in it. IMO, as it is, it rightfully belongs on Youtube for free.4

One wonders how the recommendations figure in relation to the number of individuals, who viewed the film. Does the 4,835 “shares” reflect the number of those, who viewed the film? If that is true, it seems that only a small percentage have considered it worthwhile enough to recommend. Without the total number of viewings of the film, we cannot really determine if Hastings is inflating his claims or if there really is a bunch of praise for his film. However, can we really call “271 recommendations” and “12 comments” (one of which was less than favorable) a landslide of approval for this film?

The quality of the evidence

While Hastings considered his evidence irrefutable, I consider it less than compelling. It is often anecdotal or selective inter- pretation of actual documents. If any documents indicate the anecdotal stories are not accurate, Hastings rejects them as part of a conspiracy to cover-up what transpired. In some cases, his “evidence” consists of nothing more than a newspaper clipping


or rumors. How can rumors, newspaper clip- pings, and selective editing of documents be “overwhelming evidence”? Apparently, Hast- ings hopes by presenting a bunch of uncon- firmable stories, he will make his case. Present- ing a large number of low quality cases may look impressive but for those who want him to prove his claims, it is not enough. Poor quality cases do not convince and can be considered bad evidence. No matter how much bad evi- dence is presented, the result is still the same.


December 1948

In his opening presentation of evidence, Hastings presents us with a January 31, 1949 FBI memo that describes UFOs appearing

in December of 1948 near Los Alamos. The FBI memo does describe sightings around the Los Alamos area but most, if not all, of

these are not observations of “Flying saucers” but “Green fireballs”. While many consider these something related to UFOs, I consider them nothing more than bright meteors, which can be green. No evidence has ever been presented that they were alien spaceships as Hastings suggests.

FE Warren Air Force Base 1976

The first witness to appear in the film was a Captain Bruce Fenstermacher, who was stationed at FE Warren AFB in 1976.6 He stated that his Flight security controller (FSC) reported a UFO above the site for a few minutes and then proceeded to leave. According to Fenstermacher, when they came up the next day, the FSC was in his chair curled up in the fetal position. They could not calm him down. Fenstermacher was then told to be quiet and everything they were exposed to was classified Top Secret. In other re-tellings, Fenstermacher states that the Security Alert Team (SAT) refused to go to the missile sites because they were afraid of the UFO.7 It is important to point out that the only reason he knew the UFO existed was because of the report from the people topside. He never saw the UFO himself.

The FSC was usually the senior enlisted man in the shift and probably received additional training to rise to such a position of au- thority. The other security personnel assigned to the SAT were trained to protect the missiles with their lives. In Fenstermacher’s version of events, the enlisted personnel assigned to his flight were cowardly individuals, who refused to do their jobs, at the first sign of something unusual. This story indicates that the personnel responsible for the safety of nuclear weapons were not reliable at all. If we can’t trust them to do their jobs, how can we trust them to be “reliable observers”, who told Fenstermacher the truth about what they saw?

It is important to point out that we don’t have a date or month for this event or the names of the personnel. We are just told that the year was 1976. At the time, it could not have been consider that important of an event if he could not even give us a range of dates. I find this account to be more of ghost story or joke than an actual portrayal of what really happened. There may be a kernel of truth to it but how much we will never know. Like much of Hastings’ evidence, this story is missing verification. By itself, I would consider Fenstermacher’s story “underwhelming evidence”.

An ominous correlation

As the movie progresses, Hastings links a 1952 Look magazine article to unexplained sightings at nuclear sites. In that article, Ed Ruppelt, the head of Project Blue Book, implied that he had 63 good cases that were unexplained. Hastings then states there is a link between these sightings and nuclear weapons:

At that point, it was discovered that a...quote...Ominous correlation existed between some of the sightings and the location of various atomic weapons installations.8

However, there is no such statement in the Look article. The Look article actually states:

Lieutenant Ruppelt keeps 63 sightings on the top of his file. These are the most detailed and most mystifying They come from pilots, ship observers, an Air Force colonel, civilian scientists, weather observers and intelligence officers. None of these 63 can be identified with any certainty. If the Air Force tosses them off with some easy guess, there is always the fearful chance that they will be missing a dangerous bet.


These sightings were pinpointed on a map. Soon afterwards, it was seen by a Pentagon representative who noted that a number of con- centrations duplicated exactly the area of atomic energy installations. The Pentagon man excitedly reported back to his headquarters. A conference was called immediately in Washington....

Intelligence had to tell the Pentagon that they had no evidence that the flying saucers are spying on or threatening our atomic program....

In their search for an answer, intelligence men have tried, without success, to correlate the unexplained sightings with publicity about flying saucers, increased war tension, tides, or atomic bomb detonations. None of them fits. They offer no pattern, no explanation that satisfies the experts...9

Note that the article states that “a number of concentrations” were in the area of atomic energy installations. This did not say that all, or most, of these 63 sightings were linked to atomic installations It also did not state it was atomic weapons installations but atomic energy, which could be a different thing altogether.

Hastings uses this quote in several articles but never seems to give us where these actual words came from even though he uses quotation marks for it. In one posting on the Above Top Secret forum, he indicates it came from the Look article.

According to LOOK, the “ominous correlation” between such sightings and these top secret facilities had been brought to the attention of high ranking Air Force officers, prompting a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss the apparent UFO-nukes link.10

Hastings does not mention that, at this meeting, Intelligence stated there was no such link. This is how Hastings does his research. He selects what he wants to tell the reader and then edits out the sections that don’t agree with the conclusion he wants to present.

Looking at the Blue Book files, prior to May of 1952, there were about 100 unexplained sightings. Of all of those, three were made from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, two from Albuquerque, and one from Los Alamos. Many of the others were made from outside the country or various towns around the United States that were not related to any military bases. There seems to be little, or no, cor- relation between these sightings and atomic weapons.

This possible connection was presented to the Robertson Panel in 1953. They used the 1952 data as their source. According to the panel:

The map prepared by ATIC showing geographic locations of officially reported unexplained sightings (1952 only) was examined by the panel. This map showed clusters in certain strategic areas such as Los Alamos. This might be explained on the basis of 24-hour watchful guard and awareness of security measures near such locations. On the other hand, there had been no sightings in the vicinity of sensitive related AE establishments while there were occasionally multiple cases of unexplained sightings in non-strategic areas.11

Examining the 1952 data from Blue Book, there were two unidentified sightings near Los Alamos, six near Albuquerque, and two near Oak Ridge.12 Considering that there were over 300 unexplained sightings from this time period, it seems that only a small frac- tion of the sightings appear to be near nuclear facilities.

If there was an “ominous correlation” prior to 1953, it is not obvious. Perhaps, Mr. Hastings can explain his statement with some specific data that supports it instead of “because I said so”.


The precursor to the Robertson Panel

In another selective editing moment, Hastings presents us with a quote by Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell, from a CIA memo dated De-

cember 2 1952. It makes no mention of UFOs and nuclear weapons. It only states

that UFOs have been sighted in the vicinity of defense installations and they can not be identified as aircraft or natural phenomena. What Hastings does not tell the viewer is that, this memo was one of the reasons the infamous Robertson panel met in Janu- ary of 1953, A key item in that panel’s findings was:

2. As a result of its considerations, the Panel concludes:

That the evidence presented on Unidentified Flying Objects shows no indication that these phenomena constitute a direct physical threat to national security.

We firmly believe that there is no residuum of cases which indicates Phenomena which are attributable to foreign artifacts capable of hostile acts, and that there is no evidence that the phenomena indicates a need for the revision of current scientific concepts.14

Chadwell would write to Dr. Julius Stratton, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technol- ogy (MIT), on January 27, 1953 about the panel. He would state in that letter:

“We concur in the conclusions and recommendations of the panel.”15

It seems that Chadwell, after having the evidence to date examined, recognized that
UFOs were not as significant as originally thought. Why wasn’t this letter/information placed in the film?


Do nuclear detonations attract UFOs?

In the film, Hastings tells us that nuclear weapons testing areas in Nevada and the pacific were seeing UFO activity in the early 1950s. The only document he presents is a newspaper clipping. Hastings adds that soldiers being exposed to these tests also saw UFOs but provides us with no documents indicating this was true.

The idea that the nuclear explosions were attracting UFOs appears to be rebutted by one of Hastings’ favorite sources, Ed Ruppelt. He states that in the fall of 1952, no UFO reports were made in the pacific test shots:

Our proposed trip to the Pacific to watch for UFO’s during the H-bomb test was canceled at the last minute because we couldn’t get space on an airplane. But the crews of Navy and Air Force security forces who did go out to the tests were thoroughly briefed to look for UFO’s,

and they were given the procedures on how to track and report them. Back at Dayton we stood by to make quick analysis of any reports that might come in — none came. Nothing that fell into the UFO category was seen during the entire Project Ivy series of atomic shots.16

There are very few, if any, Blue Book unknowns associated with any nuclear weapons tests. If Hastings is going to make such claims, he should provide actual data/statistics, that can be independently verified, which demonstrate they are true.

Walker AFB, New Mexico 1964

Lt. Col Phillip Moore described his UFO event, while stationed at Walker AFB. As usual, there is no date or time for this event

(although other sources give a date “fall of 1964”). Documentation is also missing. Moore was at site 7 and received a report

from the crew commander at site 6 that there were something hovering above his site. They sent three enlisted men topside, who reported seeing a light going rapidly from site 6 to 8 and back again. According to Moore, it was “instant go and instant stop”. From this verbal report, he concludes, “It had to be....not of this earth”. 18


This report sounds like another story based on something that probably happened but now bears little resemblance to the actual event. The sites mentioned by Moore are ten miles to the SE and SSW of his location . How can they be sure that this UFO was over those sites? For something to be seen from such a distance, it would have to be exceptionally bright and visible over a wider area. However, no reports were filed by the civilian population to Blue Book. Neither Moore, or any other personnel at those sites, filed a UFO report to Blue Book. Was the event that unimportant at the time or did its importance suddenly increase when Moore decided to contact Hastings? This story is not that compelling.

UFO radar tracks and intercepts

In order to emphasize that UFOs are some form of craft from outer space, Hastings describes how radar was used to track UFOs at high speeds and making incredible maneuvers. According to the film, it was common for fighter jets to attempt interceptions of these UFOs and they usually ended in the UFO darting away at incredible speeds.

This kind of story is common in UFO folklore but radar is far from perfect and pilots are known to make mistakes. Blue Book has records of pilots confusing astronomical objects for UFOs (see UFO evidence under review on P. 21 for an example) and how radar gave false returns that produced these exotic maneuvers and speeds. Hastings fails to even provide us with one compelling case, with actual data, that demonstrates this claim to be true. Instead, Hastings hopes the viewer will accept this as fact because “he said so”.

Milking the Big Sur cow

It was no surprise to see that Hastings promoted the Big Sur case in his film. Most of what Hastings states about the film and capa- bilities of the telescope was based on what Robert Jacobs told him and not what Kingston George had written. In fact, Hastings provides not one official document to support the claims made in the film.


Compare this to the documents I presented in SUNlite 6-4 that essentially debunked the entire Big Sur story.19 The actual record demonstrates that the dummy warheads of all Atlas launches that September successfully made it to the impact area and were not shot down. Additionally, the documentation indicates that the only launch that matches the description given by Jacobs was the Buzzing Bee launch. The Butterfly net launch, which Hastings has championed as the launch Jacobs described, was not recorded well because of the time of day and weather conditions prevented imaging the deployment of the re-entry vehicle.


The documents obtained by Joel Carpenter also demonstrate that the claims about the film’s resolution were exaggerated. The rocket did not “fill the frame” and the belief that “nuts and bolts” could be seen appears to be an exaggeration. The actual images from the film are very much like what Kingston George described many years ago. Looking at these images it is hard to believe that one could put a magnifying glass to the film and see the shape of anything once the rocket was down range.

Hastings has these documents in his possession but he never mentions them in his film or addresses the implications of what they contain. Thanks to the work of Joel Carpenter and testimony of Kingston George, one can consider this UFO story nothing more than a myth.

FE Warren AFB August 1, 1965

On August 1st, 1965, there was a large number of UFO reports made at FE Warren AFB. The source of this information comes from Dr. Hynek. In his book, the UFO experience, he states he approached Hector Quintanilla and his response was that as- tronomical objects were the source of these sightings. 20 I have to question that conclusion but one has to wonder if astronomical objects played a role. Some could have been observations of the rising planet Jupiter.

Captain Jay Ernshaw recounts his story associated with that series of sightings. He was at Echo-1 and got a call at 3:30 AM from his FSC. He reported seeing 5-6 oblong lights stacked upon each other. They did nothing but hover in place. He states that the paperwork regarding this incident conveniently disappeared.21 As in the previous cases, Ernshaw’s story is based on what somebody told him.

It is important to note that these UFOs did not do anything at all. There were no adverse effects reported. Considering the fact that most UFO reports can be explained, is this really something to be overly concerned about? At best, this is hearsay evidence, which is often inadmissable in criminal trials. If this is the “overwhelming evidence” Hastings promised, it is a disappointment.

Ellsworth AFB 1966

Hastings appears to try and paint an escalation of UFO interference as he brings out his witnesses one-by-one. The next witness

is Major Gaylan King, who was at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota in 1966. According to King, strike teams responded to missile

alarms in his flight and reported a flying saucer hovering over the missile. It was shooting a beam of reddish light at the missile silo, which he interprets as “them” collecting data from the missile. Of course, Major King never saw this and the enlisted men are nameless. There is also no documentation to support this story. Without a date or confirmation, such evidence is “underwhelming”.

Minot AFB 1966

The next major event was reported by Captain David Schindele, who was at Minot AFB in 1966. According to him, the missiles at November flight had gone off alert. When they went to the missile site, the topside personnel reported that an object, 80-100 feet in diameter, had been seen with flashing lights hovering over the main gate, The missile crew were told never to speak about it again. 23

The strange thing about this story is that, once again, it is nearly impossible to confirm. There are no documents to support the report of a UFO that Schindele never saw with his own eyes. Additionally, no records are presented of missiles going off alert at Minot AFB in 1966. The only document Hastings appears to have is a news paper clipping describing a sighting of a UFO on August 25, 1966.24 This did not involve any missiles shutting down and consisted of nocturnal lights and radio interference. I find this story questionable and one has to wonder if Schindele is confusing events with what would happen at another AFB in March of 1967.

The Echo flight shutdown

Robert Hastings now presents the Echo flight incident as an event where those on the craft were interested in interfering with the missiles and their nuclear warheads. Hastings’ evidence to support this is an interview where Walt Figel states that the Security Alert Team had seen a light hovering over one of the sites.

Missing from the presentation are statements later made by Figel that he thought the report was a joke. There are also comments made by Figel and Carlson, who were both at Echo flight, that the event was not produced by a UFO. The official history states:

Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) around Echo flight during the time of the fault were disproven. A mobile strike team, which had checked all of November flight’s LFs on the morning of March 16, 1967, were questioned and stated that no unusual activity or sight- ings were observed. 25

In order to refute the arguments that no UFOs were present, Hastings uses technician Henry Barlow, who was supposedly involved in restarting these missiles. Barlow says that he was told that the UFO caused the problem and that UFO activity was present after the missile shutdown. Despite making these claims, Barlow also made it clear that he never saw any UFOs. So, what we have with this “evidence” is Barlow hearing these same rumors mentioned in the official history. Rumors are not proof of anything.

Hastings also relies upon Missile engineer Robert Kaminski, who headed a Boeing team investigation of the incident. Kaminski wrote to Jim Klotz that his group had found no technical explanation for the incident and that he heard a rumor that a UFO had been in the area. However, he never stated that he had heard the UFO had caused the Echo flight shutdown. Kaminski’s exact words were:

Meanwhile I was contacted by our representative at OOAMA (Don Peterson) and told by him that the incident was reported as being a UFO event--That a UFO was seen by some Airmen over the LCF at the time E-Flight went down.26

Kaminski would add that there was another effort to evaluate the event at Hill AFB and at Seattle. He was not part of this evaluation and did not know any details or conclusions. His only statement was that he did not recall an explanation being made for the anom- aly. It seems that Kaminski’s role in the investigation was just a part of the entire process in evaluating the fault. He may not have had a “need to know” about the final conclusions. Contrary to what Hastings states, Kaminski’s letter only indicates that he heard these same rumors everybody else had heard and that he was not aware of any explanation being reached.


Contrast Kaminski’s two decade old memory to what was documented in the classified history of USAF ballistic missile programs for 1967-68. It states that the source of the problem was an internally generated noise pulse that went through the logic coupler of the guidance and control system. In order to prevent this from occurring again, the USAF installed a modification to filter out such noise pulses at all of the Minuteman bases. There is no indication that UFOs were ever involved in the missile shut down.

Tim Hebert has a wonderful examination of the Echo Flight event on his blog.27 It should be required reading for those interested in looking at the entire case and not just listening to Hastings’ myopic point of view. The Echo flight shutdown, which is one of the pillars of Hastings’“overwhelming evidence”for UFOs and Nukes theory, has a perfectly valid explanation and the documentation supports it. The “overwhelming evidence” is that it is highly unlikely that a UFO caused the missile shutdown.

Robert Salas and the Oscar flight shut down myth

No “UFOs and Nukes” program is complete without parading Robert Salas in front of the camera. Salas is the primary source for

the story about another ten missile shutdown event that, as he states, was caused by a UFO. This happened only a week or two

after the documented Echo flight shutdown. Unlike the Echo flight incident, there is absolutely no documentation that mentions the Oscar flight had a shutdown of any kind.

We are told that Robert Jamison confirms the shutdown because he had re-targeted the missiles some time in March of 1967. He claims that this was Oscar flight and that the missiles had been shutdown by a UFO. Of course, Jamison never saw the UFO but only reports he was briefed about the UFOs. Jamison could easily have been re-targeting the Echo Flight shutdown and there is no evidence to support his claims about UFO activity.

Like the Echo flight shutdown, Tim Hebert examined the Oscar flight story.29 His evaluation of the incident is that there are many reasons to question if the event even happened. The lack of any evidence to support Salas’ story makes it another case of “under- whelming evidence”.

The 1973 “ghost ship”

Mr. Hastings now jumps to an August 1973 event that appeared in an article that was published in several newspapers in June and July of 1974. According to the article, unnamed Army personnel, apparently associated with a missile defense system at Kwajalein, had seen a “ghost ship”, on radar, that was maneuvering near a dummy warhead from a Minuteman missile launch.30 The re-entry vehicle (RV) was not affected by this “ghost ship” but the implication was that it was monitoring it.

The article also mentions that all records of these flights had been routinely destroyed. This is not quite accurate. There are public re- cordsofmissilelaunchesandtheirpurpose.ThemonthofAugust1973hadthreeMinutemanlaunches.31 Themostprobablesource of this story is the August 9th launch of a Minuteman 1B. The purpose of that flight was to test the Safeguard system. Safeguard was an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system being set up in North Dakota. Elements of that system, including missiles for intercepting incoming warheads (Spartan and Sprint), were being tested at Kwajalein’s Meck island.

There really is not enough information to determine what this “unknown” was. These rumors of size and shape cannot be verified and may not be accurate. One can speculate that it might have been the remains of the booster rocket or something else associated with the payload. The Bell Labs Project history for ABM development references studying tank break up from the booster rockets since they would probably interfere with an interception by the missile.32 Without more data, we are left speculating as to what the unknown object, if it really existed, was.

Like most of the stories being told in the film, this is more rumor than fact. It was a story that was never investigated beyond what was reported. It is another case of flimsy evidence that is “underwhelming”.

The 1975 SAC incursions

In SUNlite 8-5, I took a look at the 1975 SAC incursion incidents.33 I tried to look at all the contemporary documents that recorded the events shortly after they happened. Many of the sightings may have been caused by astronomical objects including the Lor- ing AFB event, which was the initial sighting that started the wave of sightings in October-November 1975.

Instead of discussing that documentation, Hastings decides to rely upon the story told by Steven Eichner, which is an unconfirmed story told in 1981, six years later. We do not know how accurate that story is and the documentation from 1975 does not describe the incident he recalls. It is no surprise that Hastings uses this report because it is much more exciting than the observations report- ed in the message files.

Hastings also presented a highly selective version of the Malmstrom AFB series of sightings from that November. The film states that seven UFOs were sighted and tracked on radar. This is not quite accurate because the documents never describe seven objects being seen at one time. There was one entry indicating that radar had seven contacts but they were not confirmed visually. Ex- amination of all of the sightings recorded during that time period reveal that some of these sightings probably involved the planet Venus and others had potential astronomical explanations. The documentation describes the radar tracks as slow moving (7 and 3 knots) as if they were weather related.34

Hastings states that the documents surrounding these sightings were involuntarily released via FOIA. I am not sure what he means by “involuntarily”. They were released once the records were requested. Usually, the military is not interested in doing this kind of research. Any reluctance to release the records probably had more to do with not wanting to waste the time finding the records and having to go through the necessary declassification process required to release them.

Repackaging another UFO tall tale

The retelling of the Rendlesham event was very one-sided. Not surprisingly, Hastings focuses on the stories told by Penniston over a decade later and does not even mention the actual witness statements made a few days after the event, which describe the airmen chasing the Orford Ness lighthouse.35 His description of Halt’s story was equally selective and omitted key facts that demonstrate the light Halt described in the trees was the Orford Ness lighthouse.36 According to the film, Halt heard excited com- munications by security personnel that the UFOs were over the weapon storage area (WSA). This appears to be in disagreement with the tape Halt made that night. There is no mention of “excited calls” from the WSA by Halt in the tape or in his memo.


In order to provide confirmation of the Rendlesham incident, Hastings played interviews with air traffic controllers at Bentwaters, who state they saw the UFO on radar and visually.37 One of the witnesses states he saw a dot move across the radar screen in three sweeps of the radar. It then returned and made a right angle turn towards the base. The other apparently saw it visually come in, stop and hover for a short period of time, and then depart rapidly. Their descriptions of the UFOs activities on their radar and visual- ly disagree with the stories told by Halt, and the others, where the UFO was present for a significant period of time. How can one call this confirmation when there is nothing presented to support their claims? It took decades for these men to come forward with their stories and one has to question their accuracy since, as usual, there is no documentation to support them. The evidence is weak and “underwhelming”

Back in the USSR

Hastings then tells about two incidents in the USSR that involved UFOs and nukes. The first event was at Kapustin Yar on July 28, 1989. It is stated in the film that a disc was seen hovering “briefly” over “the nuclear missile warhead depot” and firing a beam towards the buildings where the weapons were kept.38 The UFO then “raced away”.

This is not quite accurate. Paul Stonehill gives us the account of the officer as follows:

I climbed the aerial support and observed the object from a height of six meters [20 feet] above the ground. One could clearly see a powerful blinking signal which resembled a camera flash in the night sky. The object flew over the unit’s logistic yard and moved in the direction of the rocket weapons depot, 300 meters [1000 feet] away. It hovered over the depot at a height of 20 meters [66 feet]. The UFO’s hull shone with a dim green light which looked like phosphorus. It was a disc, four to five meters [13 to 16 feet] in diameter, with a semispherical top. While the object was hovering over the depot, a bright beam appeared from the bottom of the disc, where the flash had been before, and made two or three circles. The object , still flashing, moved in the direction of the railway station still flashing. But soon it returned to the rocket weapons depot and hovered it at a height of 60 to 70 meters [200 to 230 feet]. Two hours after the first sighting the object flew in the direction of the town of Akhtubinsk and disappeared from sight. The light at the bottom of the disc did not flash regularly; it was as if photographs were being taken. Nor did the object move evenly. Sometimes it rushed sideways or upward and sometimes it moved smoothly and hovered here and there. I attach a drawing of the UFO’s outline and the beam.39

The UFO website has two versions of the story from the same witness. The first is very similar to Stonehill’s translation:

One could clearly see a powerful blinking signal which resembled a camera flash in the night sky. The object flew over the unit’s logistics yard and moved in the direction of the rocket weapons depot, 300 meters [1,000 ft.] away. It hovered over the depot at a height of 20 meters [65 ft.]. The UFO’s hull shone with a dim green light which looked like phosphorous. It was a disc, 4 or 5 m. [13-17 ft.] in diameter, with a semispherical top.

While the object was hovering over the depot, a bright beam appeared from the bottom of the disc, where the flash had been before, and made two or three circles, lighting the corner of one of the buildings... The movement of the beam lasted for several seconds, then the beam disappeared and the object, still flashing, moved in the direction of the railway station. After that, I observed the object hover- ing over the logistics yard, railway station and cement factory. Then it returned to the rocket weapons depot, and hovered over it at an altitude of 60-70 m. [200-240 ft.]. The object was observed from that time on, by the first guard-shift and its commander. At 1:30 hrs., the object flew in the direction of the city of Akhtubinsk and disappeared from sight. The flashes on the object were not periodical, I observed all this for exactly two hours: from 23:30 to 1:30.40

The second version of the story contains some more variations:

I climbed up to the watchtower and watched the object at a height of 18 feet. I could clearly make out a glaring blinking signal, bright as a camera flash. The object flew over the stores of the unit and moved in the direction of the missile arsenal, about 1,000 feet away. It floated at a height of only 60 feet above the depot. The UFO glowed in a kind of phosphorescent green. It was a disc 12 to 15 feet in diameter with a semi-spherical dome on it.

While the object was hovering above the arsenal, a bright ray appeared on its underside where the light had been flashing before, and drew 2 or 3 circles. Then the object moved towards the railway station, still flashing. Soon, however, it came back to the missile depot and hovered at a height of 180-200 feet above it. Two hours after the start of the sighting, the object flew in the direction of the town Akhtubinsk and disappeared out of our sight,”41

If these translations are accurate, the UFO was not visible “briefly” but loitered over the area for almost two hours. Neither transcript mentions nuclear weapons. Instead it is called a “rocket weapons depot” or “missile arsenal”. The idea that a beam was being pro- jected specifically into a weapons bunker seems exaggerated as well. The only translation that mentions this only states that the beam lit up part of a building. It then went towards the railway station and cement yard. Were the pilots of this UFO interested in railway cars and cement as well?

Assuming that Kapustin Yar had nuclear weapons at the base in 1989, it would have been in a storage area where it would have been surrounded by Surface to Air Missile (SAM) batteries. If a UFO was hovering over the nuclear weapons storage area, one would think the Soviets would have responded with a SAM launch instead of allowing this intruder to loiter around the complex for two hours “taking photographs” or “shooting beams” at them. Is it possible that what was seen was something else? We are told the file was incomplete, which indicates that a possible solution might be possible if that information was made available.

The other case presented by Hastings was a bizarre story, where a UFO almost started World War III. On October 4, 1982, in the Ukraine, a UFO appeared over a Russian IRBM complex.42 At some point, several of the missiles went into countdown mode and were, apparently, going to launch. After 15 seconds, the anomaly ceased and the missiles returned to normal. It is assumed that the UFO caused this but there is no proof other than the account that a UFO hovered over the base for a significant amount of time. Once again, we are left with a docile Soviet military that ignored this threat and made no effort to retaliate. In 1982, tensions between the US and the USSR was at an elevated level. US Military weapon deployments (Pershing and cruise missiles) to Europe were planned/underway and the USAF had been testing Soviet air defenses on a regular basis. The Soviets were on a hair trigger alert and would be gravely concerned about an unknown force, presumably flown by the United States, was hovering over their missiles. Less than a year later, the Soviet Union would shoot down a Korean airliner because it had inadvertently wandered into their air space. Are we supposed to believe that the Soviets simply let this UFO interfere with their weapons systems without even attempting to respond?

Hastings compares the second event to the story by Captain David Schuur.43 He said that a UFO had activated several of his missiles at Minot AFB in 1966 and initiated a launch signal. The commander, struck an inhibit switch to prevent the missile from launching. Tim Hebert has stated that it is unlikely it happened this way.44 Like all the stories being paraded on this program, there is nothing that verifies that these stories are true or that a UFO actually caused the events. They all can be considered “underwelming evidence” for Hastings’ UFOs and Nukes connection.

Ambassadors of peace....or war?

At this point Hastings reveals what he thinks is happening. According to Hastings, the “pilots” of these UFOs are trying to warn

us about the dangers of nuclear weapons. I find this amusing because their behavior described by Hastings, if accurate, is

more in line with the pilots trying to start a nuclear war. Shutting down missiles, intercepting warheads on test launches, intruding on nuclear weapon storage areas, or trying to launch weapons is the kind of actions one would expect from a hostile race and not a benevolent one. A trigger happy leader might suspect somebody (another nation) was trying to interfere with their arsenal and not trying to send a message to disarm. Such actions would trigger a hostile response and possibly start a nuclear war. Either Hastings’ “pilots” are the dumbest race in the galaxy, who underestimate human psychology, or they are trying to have us wipe each other out.

FE Warren AFB 2010

Probably the ultimate insult to the viewer’s intelligence is Hastings attempt at trying to link the FE Warren AFB missile shutdown in 2010 to UFO activity. Despite there being an obvious technological explanation of what transpired, Hastings generates a fantastic story that a UFO was responsible. His evidence for the UFOs is in the form of “confidential AF sources known to Robert Hastings” that told him missile maintenance personnel, who went out to the sites, saw a floating cigar shaped UFO in the sky. This object was confirmed because these same sources state that these teams were ordered not to discuss these sightings with the press or investigators.46

Strangely, there is no evidence in the MUFON47 and NUFORC48 databases from October of 2010 that independently support his claims of many UFO reports being made in the area. These missiles are deployed over a large area, where civilians, who are not under orders, reside and travel. Are we supposed to believe that the UFO was only visible to his mystery witnesses and not to the rest of the population?

Hastings refers to “multiple independent reports” known by “key personnel” and “suppressed” by the chain of command. However, these “reports” are those he has received personally and cannot be independently confirmed. They can be considered nothing more than unconfirmed rumors being paraded as facts. How can we tell if the story being presented is just something that was fabricated by his source? This evidence is so feeble, it is essentially “non-existent”.

Blue Book lies

Robert Hastings spends a certain part of the film criticizing Blue Book and secretary of defense Brown for saying that no UFO ever

posed a threat to the national security of the United States. His argument is that these events indicate that UFOs are a threat

and are going out of their way to interfere with anything associated with nuclear weapons. This argument fails because everything he presented in this film, and his book, is speculation based on rumors and unconfirmable stories told years, or decades, after the event. In light of such suspect evidence, it is understandable why Blue Book and the defense department reached their conclusions.

As we have seen, Hastings has a tendency to reach conclusions based on anecdotal evidence that can not be verified and he omits mentioning the documents that suggest another solution. One could draw the conclusion that is Hastings that is not being honest with public, which makes him a hypocrite.


Mr. Hastings’ approach to his documentary is that the stories told by these witnesses are 100% accurate. The skeptics argue that one cannot accurately determine if they are telling a fabricated story, a false memory, or the truth. Which is the most accurate cannot be resolved but, without proof, one has to put the weight towards which is more probable. Since there is no hard evidence that alien spaceships actually exist, one must look elsewhere for possible answers.

Since all of the witness rely on their memories to recount what transpired, we must examine that aspect and how reliable it can be. Many of Hastings’ witnesses appear to be familiar with stories told by the others before coming forth. He makes a habit of urging former missile crew members to contact him after telling his UFO and Nukes stories in these venues. This introduces contamination and can create false memories as Dr. Julia Shaw states:

Studies have shown people alter their own recollections when they compare experiences with others. We take on the memories of others as our own, intentionally or not, and whether details are accurate or not. They’re contagious.

One reason is that when you hear a different version of an event, your brain may make new connections that interfere and overlay your own original memory.

We can also forget the source of the information we remember, so go on to assume we must have experienced it ourselves.50

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus also tells us how memories can be contaminated by outside sources:

During the time between an event and a witness’s recollection of that event -- a period often called the “retention interval” -- the bits and pieces of information that were acquired through perception do not passively reside in memory waiting to pulled out like fish from water. Rather, they are subject to numerous influences. External information provided from the outside can intrude into the witness’s memory, as can his own thoughts, and both can cause dramatic changes in his recollections.

People’s memories are fragile things. It is important to realize how easily information can be introduced into memory, to understand why this happens, and to avoid it when it is undersirable.51

It seems a reasonable hypothesis that, in some cases, these witnesses are telling their stories because Hastings, and others, have contaminated the witness pool with stories of alien spaceships interfering with nuclear weapons. A good example of this can be found in a letter that Fred Miewald wrote to Robert Salas in 1996:

“The info you provided is very interesting but I have slightly different memories...” 52

Exactly what memories were different is not clear but his memory could have been contaminated by Salas, who had already sent him his version of what transpired. Miewald’s later recollections may have no longer been accurate. Like Dr. Shaw stated, false memories can be contagious and there is no way to tell which details come from Miewald’s original memories and which details were influenced by Salas.

“Call me”

At the end of the film, Hastings urges people to contact him with their “UFOs and nukes” stories because of the historical nature of these events. Soliciting testimony of this kind invites all sorts of story tellers and can contaminate the memories of others. How can Hastings tell the difference between a fabrication, a false memory, and a story that is entirely accurate? He can’t and this is why his film, and his evidence, is underwhelming.

Quelle: SUNlite 6/2016


Freitag, 23. Dezember 2016 - 08:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Virgin Galactic´s neues SpaceShipTwo -Update



Virgin Galactic will roll out a new version of its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket Friday as it prepares to return to flight testing for the first time since a 2014 accident destroyed the original, killed one of its pilots and set back the nascent industry.
The space line founded by Sir Richard Branson will unveil the craft at California's Mojave Air & Space Port, where it was assembled.
SpaceShipTwo is designed to be flown by a crew of two and carry up to six passengers on a high-speed suborbital flight to the fringes of space. At an altitude above 62 miles, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth below.
After years of development, Virgin Galactic appeared to be nearing the goal of turning ordinary civilians into astronauts when the first SpaceShipTwo broke apart on Oct. 31, 2014, during its fourth rocket-powered flight. Wreckage fell to the Mojave Desert floor.
"When we had the accident, for about 24 hours we were wondering whether it was worth continuing, whether we should call it a day," Branson told The Associated Press. He said engineers, astronauts and members of the public helped convince him that space travel is too important to give up on.
The crash investigation found that co-pilot Michael Alsbury prematurely unlocked the so-called feathering system that is intended to slow and stabilize the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere. Alsbury was killed, but pilot Peter Siebold, although seriously injured, parachuted to safety.
The "feathers" — a term derived from the design of a badminton shuttlecock — are tail structures that extend rearward from each wingtip. They are designed to swivel upward at an angle to create drag, preventing a buildup of speed and heat, and then rotate back down to normal flying position as the craft descends into the thickening atmosphere.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that Scaled Composites, a company that was developing SpaceShipTwo with Virgin Galactic and was responsible for its test program, should have had systems to compensate for human error. The NTSB chairman, Christopher Hart, said it wasn't a matter of shortcuts but of not considering a crew member would make the mistake that occurred.
Virgin Galactic subsequently assumed full responsibility to complete the test program.
The company stressed in a statement Thursday its commitment to testing from the level of individual parts on up to the complete craft.
"Our team's job is to plan out not just the obvious tests but also the strange and inventive ones, to conduct those tests, and to use the data from those tests to re-examine everything about our vehicle to ensure we can take the next step forward," it said.
The company did not project a timeline for actually carrying space tourists, noting that "our new vehicle will remain on the ground for a while after her unveiling, as we run her through full-vehicle tests of her electrical systems and all of her moving parts."
SpaceShipTwo is the successor to SpaceShipOne, the winged rocket plane that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by demonstrating a reusable spacecraft capable of carrying three people could make two flights within two weeks to at an altitude of least 62 miles.
The prize announced in 1996 was intended to spur the development of private manned spaceflight in the same way the Orteig Prize offered in 1919 fostered trans-Atlantic aviation. Charles Lindbergh won that prize with his nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.
Like SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft beneath the wing of a mother ship — a special jet aircraft that releases it at an altitude of about 45,000 feet. After gliding for a few moments, SpaceShipTwo's pilots ignite the rocket engine to send the craft hurtling toward space.
After reaching the top of its suborbital trajectory, the spacecraft begins falling back toward Earth and glides to a landing on a runway.
Quelle: The San Diego Union-Tribune
Virgin Galactic returns with SpaceShipTwo test flight
Sir Richard Branson's project to send passengers into space is looking to get back on track after a fatal accident in 2014 killed a test pilot
What SpaceShipTwo’s Rollout Milestone Means — And What’s Next.
Very soon, Virgin Galactic will introduce our new spaceship to our customers, our partners, and the world. We’ll celebrate the hard work our engineers and technicians have poured into making each of SpaceShipTwo’s parts, testing each one of them, and assembling them together into our beautiful new vehicle. As we celebrate the end of one critical phase of work, we also mark the start of a new phase, one focused on further testing and, ultimately, the first commercial human spaceflight program in history.
In recent years, Virgin Galactic has built up a truly world class operations organization to match our manufacturing and testing teams. We’ve pulled in experienced leaders from NASA’s mission control and astronaut corps, from the militaries of three nations and from leading aviation and transportation companies, and we’ve charged them with developing a plan to safely test and operate a reusable spacecraft. They have done their homework and subjected their processes to expert external reviews, and they are eager to take the proverbial keys to SpaceShipTwo.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Testing
When we talk to our customers, partners, and supporters about our mission of opening space to all, they often express both a desire for the future to arrive quickly and also a profound sense of amazement that commercial space travel is finally something real, not just science fiction. Managing that transition from fiction to reality requires clever ideas, lots of hard work, and above all else, lots and lots of testing.
Even before we unveil this brand new vehicle—indeed, even before we’d assembled the parts together into something that looked like a spaceship—we had begun a rigorous test campaign patterned off the relevant industry standards. Starting at the level of individual pieces and components, we poked, prodded, stretched, squeezed, bent, and twisted everything used to build these vehicles. We’ve run a spaceship cabin through thousands of pressure cycles simulating the flight from ground level to space and back; we’ve conducted nearly one hundred full-scale tests of our rocket motor system; we’ve bent and torqued our megastructures in ways significantly exceeding what they’d see in flight.
This type of testing isn’t complete yet—because it will never be complete. As a manufacturing organization, we will always do this sort of testing on parts. But we are now entering a phase where instead of just testing pieces and subsystems, we test the vehicle as a whole.
We are not starting from scratch even in that respect. Because our new vehicle is so similar to its predecessor, we benefit from incredibly useful data from 55 successful test flights as well as the brutal but important lessons from one tragic flight test accident. And so, we will begin our full vehicle tests by validating and calibrating that existing data set by running tests similar to what you’ve seen before. But there is still much more to test.
Some aspects of testing are likely obvious to the layperson; for example, while we’ve built an in-house rocket team that quite possibly has the most experience of any group in the world with hybrid rocket motors of this class, that experience in ground testing has be validated, repeatedly, with performance in the air. There are other equally important tests that aren’t obvious to the casual observer, or perhaps even to experienced rocketeers and aviators who haven’t worked with our unique vehicle design. Our team’s job is to plan out not just the obvious tests but also the strange and inventive ones, to conduct those tests, and to use the data from those tests to re-examine everything about our vehicle to ensure we can take the next step forward.
What To Expect When You’re Space Testing
If you are expecting SpaceShipTwo to blast off and head straight to space on the day we unveil her, let us disillusion you now: this will be a ground-based celebration. Indeed, our new vehicle will remain on the ground for a while after her unveiling, as we run her through full-vehicle tests of her electrical systems and all of her moving parts. We already know these things work individually, but one can’t simply assume they will all work together—that must be tested and verified. We’ll do so quickly, but we won’t cut corners.
Once that is done, we’ll be eager to get air under the wings of our new spaceship. We’ll begin first with captive carry flight, during which SpaceShipTwo stays firmly mated to her mothership, WhiteKnightTwo. Once that is completed, we’ll move to glide testing, where our new spaceship flies freely for the first time as a glider coming home from an altitude of 45,000+ feet (14 km) while our incredible pilots test out her handling.
After several glide flights have been completed and we are satisfied with the results, rocket-powered test flights are next. We will execute a thoughtful and steady progression of flights. Each mission will be designed to test something important: how the heat from the rocket motor dissipates in the rear of the vehicle, how the vehicle behaves when breaking the sound barrier on both ascent and descent, how closely our models of forces on the vehicle match reality.
Each flight will generally fly a little higher, a little faster, and sometimes we may need to repeat a test point to get additional data or confirm a result. When she first crosses 100,000 feet (31 km), SpaceShipTwo will already be above 99% of the atmosphere, and the pilots will experience true weightlessness while surrounded by a sky that has noticeably begun turning black. When she eventually reaches 50 miles (80 km), her pilots will have met NASA and the US Air Force’s requirements for official astronaut status, and they will be recognized by our team and by the US government as bonafide space travelers; when she crosses 62 miles (100 km) sometime later, they will also be recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
When we are confident we can safely carry our customers to space, we will start doing so. We feel incredibly honored that our earliest paying customers already number more than the total number of humans who have ever been to space. Our first spaceflight with paying customers; our first flight full of research experiments; our first flight with a full complement of eight (a feat that has only been accomplished once before in all of history, by the Space Shuttle on mission STS-61A); the dozens of times we will fly the first ever astronaut from a given nation — each of these will be exciting milestones in the history of space exploration.
No one is more eager than us to complete those milestones—nor to share this journey, with all its challenges and triumphs, with a global public that craves inspiring and ambitious stories to balance out the daily barrage of the 24 hour news cycle. But this isn’t a race. We have shown we are committed to being thorough in our testing: it is the right thing to do and it is essential to our ultimate success. As a thousand year old saying goes, there is no easy way from the Earth to the stars. But finally, there is a way, and through steady testing, we will find it.
Quelle: Virgin Galactic
Quelle: Virgin Galactic
Update: 2.11.2016



Unity And Eve In Flight

Virgin Galactic

Unity And Eve In Flight

Underneath the broad wings of WhiteKnightTwo Eve, the new SpaceShipTwo Unity took flight for the second time.

It is harder to learn to fly a second time. Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight firm headed by billionaire Richard Branson, lost its first SpaceShipTwo in a pilot-caused crashed in 2014, setting back dreams of passenger spaceflight. The new SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity (and not SpaceShipThree), was unveiled in February. Today, slung beneath the wing of its WhiteKnightTwo mothership Eve, Unity took to the sky for its second-ever flight.



The mothership is an essential part of Virgin Galactic’s space program. Carried aloft under the mothership's wing, the smaller, space-bound craft can just focus on rocketing beyond the atmosphere and then gliding back to Earth. Today, Virgin Galactic was set to test Unity’s ability to glide, but high, gusty winds over the Mojave scratched that plan, and Unity remained attached to Eve throughout the flight.

There is still a long road to space ahead for the craft. After glide tests, it will need to demonstrate that it can rocket itself into the void, and then safely return to Earth. And it will need to demonstrate this many times, for a class of customers paying $250,000 apiece for a shot at 4 to 6 minutes beyond the bounds of the Earth.


Still, it’s good to see progress. Much of Virgin Galactic’s enterprise after the crash has continued in a state of weird limbo, like a harbor without any ships.

Quelle: PS


Update: 5.11.2016


Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity took to the skies for their 3rd carry test this morning.
Virgin Galactic Looks to Next SpaceShipTwo Flight Test 

After Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, took to the skies for its third-ever test flight on Thursday — and again had to scrub a “glide test” at the last minute — the aerospace company is now looking ahead to its next test run.

The glider remained attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, and the highly anticipated glide test was delayed yet again. Another test flight has not been announced.

On Tuesday, heavy crosswinds forced Virgin Galactic to call a scrub for the gliding test, with the pair of planes landing safely in the Mojave desert about an hour and a half after takeoff.

During the glide test, the two vehicles take off as a mated pair, with the SpaceShipTwo detaching from its mothership during flight and gently gliding back to the runway. Following a successful capture carry test, this is the next step before resuming rocket-powered flights.


Even though the glide tests are not designed to go into space, they are a major step towards Virgin Galactic’s ultimate goal of launching people into space. However, the aerospace company must first prove its vehicles are safe to carry human passengers. In order to do so, the company has to complete a lengthy testing process that includes glide tests and free-flight tests.

The last time Virgin Galactic performed a free-flight of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle was two years ago, when the vehicle — dubbed the VSS Enterprise — broke apart in-flight, injuring the pilot and killing the co-pilot.

The company is taking a cautious approach to testing and decided to pull the plug on today’s test after seeing something in the data they didn’t like. 


Virgin Galactic controllers are combing over the data collected and will be ready to try again in the near future.



Update: 4.12.2016


New SpaceShipTwo Flies Free for the First Time

Dozens more test flights will follow for the Virgin Galactic spaceplane "Unity" before paying passengers are aboard.


Virgin Galactic's new six-passenger SpaceShipTwo made its first glide test over Mojave, California on Saturday. 

The ship is the second in a series of commercial spaceships built for Richard Branson's space company, which is selling tickets to ride for $250,000.

The first ship, manufactured and tested by contractor Northrop Grumman's Scaled Composites, was destroyed during a fatal test flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

The new ship, named Unity and built by Virgin's The SpaceShip Company, previously made four flights attached to its carrier aircraft.

On Saturday, SpaceShipTwo and its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, took off at 6:49 a.m. from California's Mojave Air and Space Port, located in the Mojave Desert about 200 miles northwest of Los Angeles. 

"We've got an exciting year ahead and this is just the start of it," Branson told a small group braving the 28-degree Fahrenheit temperature to watch the spaceship fly. 

"I'm afraid you're going to see a lot of me these next few months," Branson said in a video from the spaceport's runway posted by Douglas Messier at 

With Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and David Mackay at the helm, Unity separated from WhiteKnightTwo at an altitude of just over 50,000 feet, said Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses.

"She looked beautiful," Moses said in a telephone interview after the flight. 

Unity flew at Mach 0.6 for an initial check of handling characteristics and vibration tests, then landed on the spaceport runway. 

"Next time we'll fly faster," Moses said, adding that the 15-minute flight flight marked a major milestone for the program.

"Flying captive is great, but there is nothing like a free flight when it's a true airplane," Moses said. "We got a glider today, but it's well on its way to becoming a spaceship."

WATCH VIDEO: Will We Ever be Able to Vacation in Space?

Quelle: Seeker

SpaceShipTwo Completes its First Successful Free-Flight

Virgin Galactics SpaceShipTwo, dubbed the VSS Unity, took to the skies over Mojave, California this morning to complete the craft’s first ever free-flight test. And preliminary data shows it was a huge success.

Today’s flight marked the fifth overall flight for the VSS Unity, which has the distinction of being the only spacecraft built by the company’s in-house manufacturing team — TheSpaceshipCompany — and the 218th flight for its mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo.


Earlier in the week, the duo joined forces to complete a fourth captive carry test. Following the pair’s second captive-carry test in September, engineers decided that all systems were performing as expected and the crew could move onto free-flight testing. The first two attempts (both in November) were thwarted due to weather and an unexpected anomaly, which prevented the crew from separating the two vehicles. 

That was not the case today. Following takeoff, the pilots of both vehicles tested multiple on board systems, ensuring they were ready (and able) to release the spacecraft. Once they received the green light from the control room, the VSS Unity was set free, and coasted down to a gentle landing. 


During free-flight (also known as a glide test) testing, the two vehicles take off as a mated pair, with the SpaceShipTwo detaching from the WhiteKnightTwo during flight before gently gliding back to the runway. In-flight testing allows engineers thoroughly study how various systems on board the vehicles perform during flight.

The glide tests are not designed to go into space; however, they are a major step towards Virgin Galactic’s ultimate goal: launching people into space. Before that can happen, the aerospace company must first prove its vehicles are safe to carry human passengers. In order to do so, the company has to complete a lengthy testing process that includes captive-carry, free-flight, and rocket-powered tests.

The road to space.
The road to space. 

Rocket-powered testing was suspended following a tragic accident in 2014, when the first SpaceShipTwo crashed as a result of pilot error. The accident resulted in the death of one pilot, leaving a second injured.

Today’s successful free-flight test, was a crucial step to resuming rocket-powered flights.


Both vehicles are reported to have landed safely, and the team will now begin the tedious process of analyzing all the data collected during the test.



Photos Gallery: SpaceShipTwo Unity’s First Glide Flight

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit; Ken Brown)

SpaceShipTwo glides through the Mojave sky followed by an Extra chase plane. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo rolls to a stop on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gaze out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson and George Whitesides gave out at SpaceShipTwo after it came to a stop on Runway 12. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson's right in Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson moves to embrace SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky. To Branson’s right is Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Richard Branson (l) and George Whitesides (r) walk with SpaceShipTwo pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic's FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo being towed back to Virgin Galactic’s FAITH hangar after a successful glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)



Update: 23.12.2016


Virgin Galactic sneaks in just one more SpaceShipTwo glide test to cap off 2016


Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity glides through the skies over California’s Mojave Desert. (Virgin Galactic Photo)


Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Unity, took its second free-flying test run today, closing off a rebuilding year for the space venture.

At the start of the year, the company was still finishing up work on its second SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, incorporating the lessons learned from the breakup of the first SpaceShipTwo in October 2014.

That accident occurred during a rocket-powered test, killing co-pilot Mike Alsbury and severely injuring pilot Pete Siebold. Investigators blamed pilot error as well as a host of other contributing factors.

VSS Unity rolled out this February amid a burst of Virgin-style hoopla, and since then the SpaceShipTwo team has been conducting a low-profile series of tests. The 27-foot-wide plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo mothership for its first unpowered glide flight on Dec. 3.

Today’s flight from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port followed a similar profile, with the aim of checking the craft’s aerodynamics under a variety of conditions. Virgin Galactic’s Dave Mackay and Mark Stucky repeated their roles as SpaceShipTwo’s pilots.




If all goes well, Virgin Galactic and its manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, could begin rocket-powered tests by mid-2017, leading up to crewed flights that hit outer-space altitudes. Once the testing team is satisfied with VSS Unity’s performance, operations will shift from Mojave to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

About 700 customers have paid as much as $250,000 each for suborbital space rides on VSS Unity. The schedule for commercial operations depends on how the test program goes, but it’s not out of the question for the first of those customers to climb on board by this time next year.

Quelle: GeekWire










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