Clean Room Tour with NASA’s Next Gen Tracking Data Relay Satellite TDRS-M, Closeout Incident Under Review – Photos

ASTROTECH SPACE OPERATIONS/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The last of NASA’s next generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TRDS) designed to relay critical science data and research observations gathered by the International Space Station (ISS), Hubble and dozens of Earth-orbiting Earth science missions is undergoing final prelaunch clean room preparations on the Florida Space Coast while targeting an early August launch – even as the agency reviews the scheduling impact of a weekend closeout incident that damaged a key component.

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Trump Proposes $19.1 Billion 2018 NASA Budget, Cuts Earth Science and Education

The Trump Administration has proposed a $19.1 Billion NASA budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, which amounts to a $0.5 Billion reduction compared to the recently enacted FY 2017 NASA Budget. Although it maintains many programs, the budget also specifies significant cuts and terminations to NASA’s Earth Science and manned Asteroid redirect mission as well as the complete elimination of the Education Office.

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SpaceX Launching NASA Jason-3 Ocean Surveillance Satellite Jan. 17; with Barge Rocket Landing – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rolls out to California launch pad in advance of Jason-3 launch for NASA on Jan. 17, 2016.   Credit: SpaceX

The joint NASA-European ocean surveillance satellite named Jason-3 is poised for blastoff from SpaceX’s California launch pad on Sunday, Jan. 17 – followed immediately by another Falcon 9 rocket recovery landing on a barge at sea.

The weather forecast is outstanding! And you can watch all the excitement live!

The primary goal is to deliver Jason-3 to low Earth orbit, where it will gather global measurements of ocean topography, or wave heights. These data provide scientists with essential information about global and regional changes in the Earth’s seas such as tracking sea level rise that threatens the resilience of coastal communities and the health of our environment.

“Jason-3 is gathering environmental intelligence form the world’s oceans.”

To top that off, SpaceX plans to move forward with their ambitious spaceflight agenda on rocket reuse. So the secondary mission goal is attempting a 2nd rocket recovery landing of the firms Falcon 9 booster in barely 4 weeks time – this time on an ocean going barge.

The weather prognosis for launch is currently 100 Percent ‘GO’ – and that’s as good as it gets!

Liftoff of the two stage 224 foot tall SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Jason-3 to Earth orbit is now less than a day away.

Launch is scheduled for the opening of the 30-second launch window on Sunday morning, Jan. 17 at 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 EST) from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC 4) on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

You can watch the dramatic events unfold via a live NASA TV webcast available at:

Countdown updates begin at 8 a.m. PST, 11 a.m. EST.

The backup launch window for a second attempt, if needed, is on Monday, January 18 at 10:31:04 a.m. PST. Monday’s weather prognosis drops to only 70 Percent ‘GO’ according to Air Force meteorologists.

The Falcon 9 rocket with Jason-3 bolted atop was rolled out from a processing hangar at Vandenberg AFB to the SLC 4 launch pad on Friday, Jan. 15 after it passed the Launch Readiness Review. It was raised into the vertical position on the launch pad at 11:11 a.m. PST today, Saturday, Jan. 16.

Jason-3 is the fourth mission in a U.S.-European series of satellite missions that measure the wave heights of the world’s ocean surfaces.

“These measurements provide scientists with critical information about circulation patterns in the ocean and about both global and regional changes in sea level and the climate implications of a warming world,” say NASA officials.

Jason-3 was built by Thales Alenia of France. It will measure the topography of the ocean surface for a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France’s space agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat).

The $180 million mission is expected to operate for at least five years.

SpaceX is now aiming to chalk up two successful rocket launches and landings in a row over the past month – if all goes well with Sunday’s Falcon 9 liftoff.

The Falcon 9 first stage will be guided to a soft landing on the barge named “Just Read The Instructions,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president for mission assurance during a pre-launch media briefing on Jan. 15.

The 156 foot tall Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with four landing legs and four grid fins to enable the propulsive landing atop the barge once the first stage separates and relights a Merlin 1D engine.

Two prior SpaceX attempts at a precision landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) barge came very close with pinpoint approaches to the oceangoing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. But the rocket tipped over in the final moments and was destroyed.

The mission also marks the final launch of the v1.1 version of the SpaceX Falcon 9, first flown in Sept 2013. That flight was also the last time SpaceX launched a rocket from their California launch pad.

Henceforth, the Falcon 9 will launch in the newly upgraded ‘Full Thrust’ version featuring more powerful first stage Merlin 1D engines. The first ‘Full Thrust’ Falcon 9 was used during the historic rocket recovery launch on Dec. 21, 2015.

Koenigsmann also confirmed that SpaceX plans another three or four Falcon 9 launches from Vandenberg AFB throughout this year.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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See EPIC Views of Rotating Earth Daily from NASA’s New DSCOVR Observatory Website

At long last, beautiful new high resolution views of the rotating Earth can be seen daily by everyone at a new NASA website – all courtesy of images taken by NASA’s EPIC camera on board the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft. And this provides a wonderful new asset for students everywhere to learn geography […]

NASA Launches Revolutionary Earth Science Satellite Measuring Soil Moisture Cycle

At dawn this morning (Jan. 31) NASA launched an advanced Earth science satellite aimed at making measurements of our planet’s surface soil moisture and freeze/thaw states from space that will revolutionize our understanding of the water, energy, carbon cycles driving all life on Earth. NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory thundered off the […]

NASA’s RapidScat Ocean Wind Watcher Starts Earth Science Operations at Space Station

Barely two months after being launched to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA’s first science payload aimed at conducting Earth science from the stations exterior has started its ocean wind monitoring operations two months ahead of schedule. Data from the ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat payload is now available to the world’s weather and marine […]

NASA Inaugurates New Space Station Era as Earth Science Observation Platform with RapidScat Instrument

NASA inaugurated a new era of research for the International Space Station (ISS) as an Earth observation platform following the successful installation and activation of the ISS-RapidScat science instrument on the outposts exterior at Europe’s Columbus module. The ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat, is NASA’s first research payload aimed at conducting near global Earth science […]

ISRO and NASA Ink Deal to Collaborate on Red Planet and Home Planet Science Missions

ISRO and NASA have inked a deal to collaborate on future missions to jointly explore the Red Planet and our Home Planet hot on the heels of ISRO’s wildly successful Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India’s first ever interplanetary voyager to explore Mars. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research […]

Spectacular Nighttime Blastoff Boosts SpaceX Cargo Ship Loaded with Science and Critical Supplies for Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blazed aloft on a spectacular middle of the night blastoff that turned night into day along the Florida Space coast today, Sept. 21, 2014, boosting a commercial cargo ship for NASA and loaded with 2.5 tons of ground breaking science experiments, 20 ‘mousetronauts’ and critical […]