Rich Mathews

Agreement between Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, and the Federal Aviation Administration is the first to cover a commercial spaceline

LAS CRUCES, NM. – May 28, 2014 – Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, and Spaceport America announced today that they have signed a joint agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that helps clear the path for commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo. The historic agreement sets out the parameters for how routine space missions launched from Spaceport America will be integrated into the National Airspace System. Specifically, the agreement spells out how the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority will work with Virgin Galactic to smoothly and safely provide clear airspace for SpaceShipTwo.

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Follow the history from the Ground Breaking in New Mexico to the first landing of the White Knight II carrying Spaceship II at Spaceport America.

Breaking New Ground – Astrocast.TV from Richard C. Mathews on Vimeo.

The Return To Spaceport America from Richard C. Mathews on Vimeo.

SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of SuperDraco Thruster

Thruster to Power Revolutionary Launch Escape System on Dragon Spacecraft

HAWTHORNE, Calif. – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft’s launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy.

The qualification testing program took place over the last month at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas. The program included testing across a variety of conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures.

The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to maneuver in orbit and during re-entry. SuperDracos will be used on the crew version of the Dragon spacecraft as part of the vehicle’s launch escape system; they will also enable propulsive landing on land.  Each SuperDraco produces 16,000 pounds of thrust and can be restarted multiple times if necessary.  In addition, the engines have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power.

The SuperDraco engine chamber is manufactured using state-of-the-art direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), otherwise known as 3D printing.  The chamber is regeneratively cooled and printed in Inconel, a high-performance superalloy that offers both high strength and toughness for increased reliability.

“Through 3D printing, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods,” said Elon Musk, Chief Designer and CEO.  “SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before.”

Unlike previous launch escape systems that were jettisoned after the first few minutes of launch, SpaceX’s launch system is integrated into the Dragon spacecraft.  Eight SuperDraco engines built into the side walls of the Dragon spacecraft will produce up to 120,000 pounds of axial thrust to carry astronauts to safety should an emergency occur during launch.

As a result, Dragon will be able to provide astronauts with the unprecedented ability to escape from danger at any point during the ascent trajectory, not just in the first few minutes.  In addition, the eight SuperDracos provide redundancy, so that even if one engine fails an escape can still be carried out successfully.

The first flight demonstration of the SuperDraco will be part of the upcoming pad abort test under NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities (CCiCap) initiative. The pad abort will be the first test of SpaceX’s new launch escape system and is currently expected to take place later this year.



Failed Dwarf Galaxy Survives Galactic Collision Thanks to Full Dark-Matter Jacket

Like a bullet wrapped in a full metal jacket, a high-velocity hydrogen cloud hurtling toward the Milky Way appears to be encased in a shell of dark matter, according to a new analysis of data from the National Science Foundation’sRobert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Astronomers believe that without this protective shell, the high-velocity cloud (HVC) known as the Smith Cloud would have disintegrated long ago when it first collided with the disk of our Galaxy. 

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The Making of NASA’s Global Selfie: 100+ Countries, Thousands of Photos


The 3.2 gigapixel Global Selfie mosaic, hosted by GigaPan, was made with 36,422 individual images that were posted to social media sites on or around Earth Day, April 22, 2014. When viewing on GigaPan’s website, clicking on the “Snapshots” icon in the lower-left corner will display a row of highlighted images.

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Launch Alert – H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 24 (H-IIA F24)

May 22, 2014 (JST)

Launch Time and Window of H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 24 with “DAICHI-2″ (ALOS-2) onboard

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency decided the launch time and launch window for the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 24 (H-IIA F24) with the Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 “DAICHI-2″ (ALOS-2) onboard under the following schedule.

Scheduled date of launch:

May 24 (Saturday), 2014 (Japan Standard Time)

Launch time: 12:05:14 p.m. (JST)


Launch time window: 12:05:14 thru 12:19:07 (JST)


Launch day windows: May 25 (Sunday) through June 30 (Monday), 2014.

(The launch time will be set to sometime between12:05:14 p.m. and 12:19:07 JST)


Mission website:

Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 “DAICHI-2″ (ALOS-2)

H-IIA Launch Vehicle:

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

A Star Cluster in the Wake of Carina

This colourful new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the star cluster NGC 3590. These stars shine brightly in front of a dramatic landscape of dark patches of dust and richly hued clouds of glowing gas. This small stellar gathering gives astronomers clues about how these stars form and evolve — as well as giving hints about the structure of our galaxy’s pinwheeling arms.

Launch Alert SpaceX Falcon 9

SpaceX’s customer for its ORBCOMM Generation 2 (OG2)  Mission 1 is the satellite communications provider ORBCOMM. In this flight, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver six next generation OG2 satellites to an elliptical 750 x 615 km low-Earth orbit. The OG2 satellites are commercial telecommunications satellites.

The ORBCOMM OG2 launch window will open at approximately 9:47 a.m. EDT on May 10, 2014 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

If all goes as planned, the OG2 satellites will be deployed one at a time, beginning approximately 15 minutes after liftoff.

Hubble Snaps Jupiter’s Shrinking Red Spot At Its Smallest Size Ever

Jupiter’s trademark Great Red Spot — a swirling storm feature larger than Earth — is shrinking. This downsizing, which is changing the shape of the spot from an oval into a circle, has been known about since the 1930s, but now these striking new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture the spot at a smaller size than ever before.

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Magnetar Formation Mystery Solved?

Magnetars are the bizarre super-dense remnants of supernova explosions. They are the strongest magnets known in the Universe — millions of times more powerful than the strongest magnets on Earth. A team of European astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) now believe they’ve found the partner star of a magnetar for the first time. This discovery helps to explain how magnetars form — a conundrum dating back 35 years — and why this particular star didn’t collapse into a black hole as astronomers would expect.

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Astronomy Talk by the Galactic Center Group at UCLA

Zooming into the Center of our Galaxy
with Keck Observatory

The Galactic Center Group at UCLA has used the W. M. Keck Observatory for the past two decades to observe the center of the Milky Way at the highest angular resolution possible. This work established the existence of a supermassive black hole at the heart of our Galaxy. In this talk, Dr. Leo Meyer, Research Scientist for the UCLA Galactic Center Group, will focus on the black hole itself and the gas that it swallows. The feeding of the black hole is a turbulent process resulting in highly variable emission of infrared light. Observations of this variability provide a great way to learn about the black hole and its immediate environment.

These lectures are supported by Rob and Terry Ryan and Keck Observatory’s Rising Stars Fund.

 May 20, 2014
  Show starts at 7 p.m.


Kahilu Theatre

Free and Open to the Public

August 2014
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