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Launch of Expedition 64 Aboard Soyuz MS-17 Rocket

Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and backup crew member NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei take a selfie inside the bus carrying her and fellow crewmates Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos to the launch pad, on October 14, 2020, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The trio launched at 1:45 a.m. EDT to begin a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. Photo by Andrey Shelepin/GCTC/NASA/UPI

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NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonauts launch to the space station

The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan occurred at 1:45 am ET on Wednesday.

The trio’s Soyuz capsule is expected to dock with the space station at 4:52 a.m. ET, and the hatch between the space station and the capsule will open at 6:45 a.m. ET, allowing them to enter the station.

This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov, and they will spend six months on the space station.

Along for the ride is Yuri, a little cosmonaut knitted by Kud-Sverchkov’s wife Olga. He serves as the crew’s zero gravity indicator. Essentially, once he begins to float, the crew will know they’ve reached space. Each crew gets to pick their own indicator, according to NASA.

Although NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken successfully launched to the station in May from the United States aboard the SpaceX Endeavour, launches to the space station on the Russian space vehicle Soyuz will still continue in the part of Kazakhstan leased to Russia.

Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will briefly overlap with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner will depart the station using the docked Soyuz capsule and return to Earth on October 21.

The 2nd time around

Rubins begins her second mission by launching on her birthday.

She will vote in the US presidential election from the space station, according to NASA. In fact, it’s her second time voting from space. Rubins voted in the 2016 election during her first six-month stay on the space station between July and October 2016.

But training and launching during a pandemic is a new experience for Rubins — although she’s comfortable with personal protective equipment because of her “old life,” she told CNN in September. Prior to becoming an astronaut, she was a scientist who studied viral diseases, cancer biology, microbiology and immunology.

“I started preparing for this before the pandemic during normal crew training,” she said. “When NASA shut down, I learned how to train remotely using video and software. I never thought I would train for spaceflight during a pandemic or do spacewalk training from my living room.”

Here's how astronauts vote from space

Rubins was eventually able to return to training in person in Texas and Russia along with her Russian crewmates, all while maintaining distance from each other and wearing masks.

Returning to the space station will allow Rubins to check some items off her bucket list.

Hope, Courage and Unity: The story behind the young cancer patients who painted space suits

She was the first person to sequence DNA in space in 2016, and she’s looking forward to continuing her sequencing research in new ways by studying the microbiome, or microbial environment, of the space station.

“The space station has been separate from Earth for 20 years,” Rubins said. “How is it different? The space station is its own biome with its own resources, with humans coming and going. We want to see what these closed environments do when they’ve been separate for a long time.”

Sequencing DNA can reveal huge amounts of

Watch NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and two cosmonauts launch into space tonight

Four years after her first flight to the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will return to space today (Oct. 14). 

Today at 1:45 am EDT (0545 GMT), Expedition 64 astronaut Rubins will fly to the space station aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan along with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Soon after her arrival at the station, Rubins will welcome a SpaceX crew aboard and celebrate space station history.

You can watch Rubins and her crewmates launch live here and on the homepage, courtesy of NASA TV. Launch coverage will begin at 12:45 a.m. EDT (0445 GMT).

Related: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will vote from space

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins (left) and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov (center) and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov (right) of Roscosmos pose for a photo while in quarantine on Oct. 13, 2020 ahead of their Oct. 14, 2020 flight to the International Space Station.   (Image credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin)

“I’m starting to get excited,” Rubins told ahead of the upcoming flight. “We just finished our final exams before spaceflight, and it’s a little bit hard to think about anything except for the exams when you’re getting ready for them.”

But, she added, “now that we’re through those, I’m really looking forward to launch and to getting back up into space.”

Rubins’ launch could mark the last time that a NASA astronaut flies to space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, as crewed commercial launch capabilities from the United States are growing rapidly. This past May, for example, SpaceX launched its crewed Demo-2 mission, which sent two NASA astronauts to the space station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon vehicle. SpaceX’s first fully operational crewed mission, Crew-1, will launch four astronauts this fall, and Rubins will be on the space station to welcome those spaceflyers aboard. 

“I think I think it’s incredibly exciting,” Rubins said. “I’m really looking forward to welcoming the first operational commercial crew vehicle to station, not just because it represents such a milestone in commercial crew, but I have some really good friends in that vehicle. So I can’t wait to see them come across the hatch.” 

“I think we’re gonna always have this incredible partnership; we have international partners all over the world,” she added. “The [NASA] Commercial Crew Program just allows us to have more presence on the space station, but it doesn’t mean an end to the partnership. So we’re constantly going to be working with our partners all around the world. That’s one of the strengths of the space station.”

In addition to possibly being the last NASA astronaut to ride a Soyuz to space, Rubins will also be a part of space station history as, during her stay, the orbiting lab will celebrate its 20th anniversary of having a continuous human presence. Rubins will also vote from space, as could the NASA astronauts launching with Crew-1. (Crew-1 will lift off no sooner than “early to mid-November,” according to NASA officials.) 


NASA astronaut set to launch on Russian rocket as US transitions to private spacecraft

A new crew of three astronauts are launching to the International Space Station late tonight, blasting off on a Russian Soyuz rocket out of Kazakhstan. The trio are heading to the station about a month ahead of SpaceX’s next crewed Dragon launch, which will bring another set of four astronauts aboard the ISS in mid-November.

Heading up on this Soyuz flight are two Russian cosmonauts — Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov — and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, on her second trip to space. The trio will join three crew members who have been living on the ISS since April: Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. However, their living arrangement won’t last long. Cassidy and his cosmonaut crew mates are slated to head back to Earth on October 21st, riding inside the Soyuz capsule that brought them to the space station.

Just a few weeks later, in early- to mid-November, Rubins and her team are set to welcome the four-member crew of SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon mission, called Crew-1. That flight will carry three NASA astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker — and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the ISS for a six-month stay. Their arrival on SpaceX’s new passenger vehicle will bring the total population of the ISS to seven — a larger cohort than usual for the ISS, which has typically held six-person crews since the end of the Space Shuttle program.

Rubins’ flight on the Soyuz comes amid a time of transition in NASA’s human spaceflight program. Since the last flight of the Space Shuttle in 2011, the only way NASA astronauts could get to the station was on Russia’s Soyuz rocket. But through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, two private companies — SpaceX and Boeing — have been developing their own space capsules to take NASA astronauts to and from the space station. In May, SpaceX demonstrated that its Crew Dragon spacecraft could safely ferry astronauts to and from the station when it delivered two NASA crew members to the ISS. Boeing’s first crewed test flight is currently scheduled for next year.

The Soyuz rocket rolling out to the pad.
Image: NASA

SpaceX and Boeing’s vehicles were supposed to be ready as early as 2017, but their development programs suffered from years of delays. In the meantime, NASA continued to purchase seats on Russia’s Soyuz for US astronauts — at roughly $80 million per person — though the agency tried to limit the amount, hoping that the Commercial Crew vehicles would come online soon. NASA had hoped they’d be ready last year, but when more delays seemed imminent, the space agency purchased one last Soyuz seat — the one that Rubins will ride in early tomorrow morning.

Moving forward, NASA hopes that it can work out seat trades with Roscosmos, where Russian cosmonauts will ride on SpaceX and Boeing’s vehicles in exchange for NASA astronauts flying on

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sets launch record as it tests NASA moon gear

Blue Origin set a new mark for recycling rockets Tuesday morning by sending the same New Shepard spacecraft to the edge of space for the seventh time.

The spaceflight company founded and funded by Amazon head Jeff Bezos completed its 13th New Shepard mission from its private launch facility in west Texas while also testing some key equipment for future NASA missions to the moon. 

The mission was originally set for late September from the Texas site, but was delayed multiple times due to weather and technical issues. It finally left Earth at 6:37 a.m. PT (8:37 a.m. Texas time) Tuesday and returned to land at the same facility in two pieces just about 10 minutes later. 

a plane flying over a body of water: The sixth landing of the same New Shepard booster.

© Blue Origin

The sixth landing of the same New Shepard booster.

A few minutes after blasting off, the crew capsule carrying most of the experiments separated from the rocket booster. The booster returned to the Earth for a precision landing, while the capsule drifted back to the surface with the help of parachutes a few minutes later.

In the future, Blue Origin is planning to sell trips to space for intrepid tourists who will take a ride in the crew capsule. 

During its short time in microgravity, Mission NS-13 and its dozen payloads aim to gather scads of data for a number of tests and experiments, including a demonstration of a lunar landing sensor that will test technologies for future moon missions as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

The sensor is the first payload to ride mounted to the exterior of New Shepard rather than inside its capsule. 

A few of the other payloads on board this flight of New Shepard include a test of a new system to autonomously grow aquatic plants that could supplement a crew’s diet and of a new cooling system developed by NASA for spacecraft electronics.  

SpaceX, another commercial space outfit headed by a famous billionaire, in the form of Elon Musk, has so far used a single Falcon 9 booster up to six times. It’s worth noting, though, that the Falcon 9 is a different class of rocket that is used for more technically complicated orbital missions.

You can watch a recording of the launch live feed below.

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Mixed Reality Studio in Gigabit Lab ready for LS launch

Megan Terry has fun at the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Central Missouri’s Lee’s Summit campus.

Megan Terry has fun at the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Central Missouri’s Lee’s Summit campus.

Courtesy photo

A new lab at the University of Central Missouri’s Lee’s Summit campus will aim to give students and local entrepreneurs a chance to explore what’s possible in the fields of virtual and augmented reality.

The launch for the Mixed Reality Studio in its Gigabit Lab is set for Global Entrepreneurship Week, which starts Nov. 16. Coronavirus concerns could delay or limit the public opening.

Money for the new equipment came through the MoExcels initiative from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.

“This is all new. Before, there was no virtual reality or augmented reality equipment here,” said Joe Mullins, a consultant for the university’s Center for Workforce and Professional Education. “We are starting from scratch and trying to see where we can go with it.”

With virtual reality, once you put on the headset, everywhere you look is a created digital landscape. Augmented reality places digital objects within the real world and is perhaps most well-known through the app Pokémon GO.

Four workstations, each with its own headset, will access various platforms.

Mullins said students and faculty at the university will have free access to the lab, and professionals from the community will be able to buy time on the equipment. They’re still working out a fee structure.

The idea is for students to gain skills to create training programs and other materials using this equipment. That could mean creating a scenario where medical students work on a virtual patient or someone studying avionics could practice on a virtual engine before going to the real thing.

Mullins said he sees the lab as something that could benefit people across the metro area. Each piece of technology is expensive, and students and entrepreneurs alike might not otherwise have the means to access it.

Non-profit Velocity Lee’s Summit, which supports entrepreneurs, partnered with the university on the lab’s creation.

Jeff Danley, director of innovation and eSports at VMLY&R, got involved with the project through Velocity, which he helped found.

“Joe and I were both on the board of that, and Joe mentioned everything he was wanting to do with this Mixed Reality Lab and really trying to drive innovation at the Missouri Innovation Campus,” Danley said.

The composition of this lab is different than what Danley has seen available in his professional work, and he said the lab is the first of its kind in the Midwest.

“Typically when we see a lab like this, it’s specializing in one company’s technology, and what we’re bringing together with this lab is we’ve got all of the technologies — a lot of the top technology — in one place,” Danley said.

Like Mullins, he sees the lab as having a further reach beyond Lee’s Summit.

Danley is looking forward to seeing how students approach business and creative technology, “once they have access to this technology and see and understand what it

Blue Origin plans third try to launch New Shepard rocket mission

Blue Origin plans a launch Tuesday morning in West Texas for its New Shepard rocket, like this one that was launched Jan. 23, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin

Blue Origin plans a launch Tuesday morning in West Texas for its New Shepard rocket, like this one that was launched Jan. 23, 2019. Photo courtesy of Blue Origin

Oct. 13 (UPI) — Blue Origin plans to try again Tuesday morning to launch a NASA moon landing experiment aboard the company’s reusable New Shepard rocket from Texas.

Liftoff is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. EDT at the company’s launch facilities about 150 miles east of El Paso. The company postponed the launch twice before — once due to cloudy weather and again the next day due to a power supply problem on board the rocket.

The NASA experiment is part of the agency’s Tipping Point program, which seeks to demonstrate technology that can be adopted by private industry. The project includes a collection of sensors designed to help locate a safe site on the moon for upcoming landings, according to NASA and Blue Origin’s mission description.

“A NASA-developed sensor suite could allow robotic and crewed missions to land precisely on the lunar surface within half the distance of a football field,” NASA said of the project. “The rocket’s flight path is relevant to lunar landings, providing a unique opportunity to mature sensors and algorithms for potential use on Artemis [moon] missions.”

Those sensors require clear skies to function properly and that was the cause of the initial delay.

Lunar landings are important to Blue Origin because it leads the so-called National Team in developing a human lander for future moon missions. The team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

The sensors are the first payload to fly mounted on the exterior of a New Shepard booster rather than inside its capsule, which the company said could open up opportunities for other exterior technology, including “a wide range of future high-altitude sensing, sampling and exposure payloads.”

The launch would be the 13th New Shepard mission and the seventh consecutive flight for the rocket, which is 60 feet high and emits 110,000 pounds of thrust.

The company, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, one day wants to fly space tourists in a capsule designed for six people as it also develops its larger New Glenn rocket.

At least two plant experiments are in the rocket’s capsule for the so-called NS-13 mission, one of which was designed by researchers at the University of Florida’s Ferl/Paul Space Plants Lab.

Other payloads on board the so-called NS-13 mission include experiments from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Colorado-based Space Lab Technologies.

Sorry, SpaceX. Watch This Week As NASA Pays $90 Million To Launch U.S. Astronaut On A Russian Rocket

U.S. astronauts now fly to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil, right?

So why is a NASA astronaut about to blast-off to the ISS from Russia at a cost of over $90 million?

Despite the success of “Launch America” back on May 30, 2020 when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley journeyed to and from the ISS in SpaceX hardware during the historic SpaceX Crew Demo-2 mission, NASA astronaut Kate Rubin will this week leave Earth from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

As I reported back in June, it’s the final part of an existing contract between NASA and the Russian space agency to send a US astronaut to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

When is the next rocket launch to the ISS?

Rubin is due to lift-off on Wednesday, October 14, at 1:45 a.m. EDT (10:45 a.m. Kazakhstan time) together with cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Their two-orbit, three-hour journey will begin their six-month mission on the ISS.

Where to watch the rocket launch to the ISS

You can tune-in to the launch online by visiting NASA TV on the space agency’s website or NASA TV on YouTube:

Why is NASA paying Russia $90 million to launch an astronaut when it now has SpaceX?

NASA has been signing contracts with Russia to buy seats on Soyuz spacecraft since 2011 when the Shuttle was grounded. This is its last currently contracted seat, NASA confirmed to me last week. In fact, a contract modification in May 2020 procured one seat at a cost of $90,252,905.69. The cost covers training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

So does this mean NASA had a Plan B while SpaceX was testing its Crew Dragon spacecraft last summer? “NASA continues to have high confidence in our U.S. commercial crew partners for regular crew rotation,” said NASA in an emailed statement to me.

However, there’s a refreshing lack of nationalism in what is, after all, an entirely global endeavor. “As the U.S. commercial crew capability becomes operational, astronauts and cosmonauts should resume flying together on our respective spacecraft, consistent with past practice,” reads the statement from NASA.

Will Russian cosmonauts fly on NASA SpaceX missions?

Almost certainly—because it’s safer. “A problem with a spacecraft in orbit may require the full crew of that spacecraft to return to Earth,” reads the NASA statement. “Flying mixed crews is mutually beneficial as it would increase the probability that both astronauts and cosmonauts will be on the space station to perform critical operations.”

NASA and Roscosmos are now discussing plans to ensure at least one U.S. and Russian crew member are aboard the ISS at any one time.

So while the days of paying $90 million-per-seat are over for NASA, we can expect to see Russian cosmonauts on SpaceX missions

SpaceX rocket issue delays astronaut launch

Astronauts make round trip to space station from U.S. soil

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley (C) waves to onlookers as he boards a plane at Naval Air Station Pensacola to return him and NASA astronaut Robert Behnken home to Houston a few hours after the duo landed in their SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft off the coast of Pensacola, Fla,, on August 2, 2020. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

Blue Origin to launch NASA’s new moon-landing technology into space

  • Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Jeff Bezos, is about to launch a test flight to try out new moon-landing technologies for NASA.
  • NASA developed high-precision sensors, software, and a new computer to help spacecraft land in rocky or shadowy areas of the moon or Mars.
  • It paid Blue Origin $3 million to test those new technologies.
  • If they work as planned, the landing systems should deliver the company’s New Shepard rocket safely back to Earth on Tuesday.
  • You can watch the 12-minute launch and landing live.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, Blue Origin, is preparing to launch a suite of new high-precision moon-landing technologies into space for NASA, then test their mettle with a touchdown back on Earth.

The company’s New Shepard rocket is set to lift off from a launchpad in West Texas at 8:35 a.m. CDT on Tuesday. From there, it should rocket 62 miles into the air — reaching the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space — to briefly expose the NASA hardware to the space environment. The rocket will also release a capsule containing cargo for other companies, then descend back to Earth.

blue origin new shepard rocket booster landing

The New Shepard booster lands after the vehicle’s sixth consecutive flight Dec. 11, 2019.

Blue Origin

If NASA’s sensor systems, computer, and software perform as planned, they should land the rocket safely 12 minutes after launch.

NASA hopes to one day use the new landing systems it’s testing to send human missions to the moon, set up a permanent base there, and eventually land astronauts on the treacherous Martian landscape.

The larger system is called SPLICE, short for Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution. It’s designed to help future moon missions land with better accuracy and safety — no pilot required. It could even enable future spacecraft to land in boulder fields or shadowy craters that thus far have been considered too hazardous for a safe landing. That capability would open up miles of the lunar surface, along with areas on other planets like Mars.

blue origin human lunar landing hls system moon descent national team hires

An illustration of lunar-landing hardware for NASA’s Artemis program conceived of by National Team: a business collaboration led by Blue Origin between Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

Blue Origin/National Team

“Testing SPLICE technologies on a suborbital rocket expands the envelope beyond previous lab tests, helicopter field tests, and lower-altitude suborbital rocket tests,” John Carson, who works on precision landing technology at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in a September news release.

The test flight was originally scheduled for September 24, but Blue Origin scrubbed it, citing a power-supply issue. The company also canceled its planned second attempt the following day, saying it needed to “verify a fix on a technical issue.”

This is the first of two flight tests that Blue Origin will conduct through NASA’s Tipping Point program, which awarded six private companies a total of $44 million to help push next-generation technologies over the finish line. Blue Origin got $3 million for the project