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Jason Davis' blogs from 2015

Your First Timeline of Events for LightSail's Test Flight

Jason Davis • March 30, 2015

The team behind The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is kicking off a series of simulations to ensure the spacecraft’s ground systems are ready for launch.

Where Should Humans Land on Mars? Workshop to Discuss Possibilities

Jason Davis • October 27, 2015

This week in Houston, Texas, scientists are gathering to discuss where humans should first land and explore on the surface of Mars.

What Images Will We Get Back from the LightSail Test Mission?

Jason Davis • May 08, 2015

With less than two weeks before launch, here's an in-depth look at whether the LightSail test mission's attitude control system bug will keep us from seeing pretty pictures taken by the spacecraft.

Watch the Incredible 'Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly' of SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket

Jason Davis • January 16, 2015

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has released four images of the company's Falcon 9 rocket impacting its drone ship landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean.

Video: NASA Prepares for Sixth SLS Engine Test

Jason Davis • August 12, 2015

The Planetary Society will be at NASA's Stennis Space Center this Thursday for the sixth test firing of the RS-25 engine, which powers the Space Launch System.

Veteran Spacefarer, 2 Rookies Return to Earth

Jason Davis • September 12, 2015

A three-person crew commanded by humanity's most experienced space traveler is back on Earth today.

United Launch Alliance Unveils New CubeSat Carrier Program

Jason Davis • November 19, 2015

United Launch Alliance plans to include a CubeSat carrier on nearly every one of its Atlas V and Vulcan rockets starting in 2017, the company announced today.

United Launch Alliance Pulls Back Curtain on New Rocket

Jason Davis • April 13, 2015

ULA revealed its new Vulcan rocket system today, an Atlas and Delta mashup the company says will increase power, lower costs and broaden mission capabilities.

Two Days, Two Launches and Three Landings

Jason Davis • February 09, 2015

Within a two-day span, two rocket launches and three ocean landings are scheduled—one of which involves an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

To Recover First Stage, Just Read the Instructions

Jason Davis • April 10, 2015

SpaceX is gearing up for a second attempt to land the spent first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Timeline: LightSail's First Day in Space

Jason Davis • May 19, 2015

It's the day before launch at Cape Canaveral. Here's a timeline of events for LightSail's first day in space.

Thousands of Photos by Apollo Astronauts now on Flickr

Jason Davis • October 02, 2015

A cache of more than 8,400 unedited, high-resolution photos taken by Apollo astronauts during trips to the moon is now available for viewing and download on Flickr.

Thank You, LightSail Trackers

Jason Davis • June 19, 2015

A thank-you to all the space enthusiasts who helped track LightSail during its 25-day test mission.

Ten-day Taxi Trip to International Space Station Underway

Jason Davis • September 02, 2015

A ten-day International Space Station taxi flight is underway following the Wednesday liftoff of a three-person crew from Kazahkstan.

Telerobotics: Unifying Human and Robotic Spaceflight

Jason Davis • October 08, 2015

Telerobotics—with humans nearby—just might be the perfect unification of human and robotic spaceflight. Two groups at NASA and ESA are working to make this fledgling technology commonplace.

Swapped Soyuz Set for Friday Return

Jason Davis • September 11, 2015

Gennady Padalka, Andreas Mogensen and Aidyn Aimbetov are set to return to Earth Friday after the station's one-year crew received a fresh Soyuz spacecraft.

Surveyor Digitization Project Hints at Long-Lost Lunar Treasures

Jason Davis • November 23, 2015

A project to digitize more than 90,000 images taken by NASA’s five Surveyor spacecraft in the 1960s has revealed early hints of never-before-seen treasures captured by America’s first robotic lunar landers.

SpaceX, Partners Prepare for Falcon Return-to-Flight

Jason Davis • December 08, 2015

SpaceX is preparing to return its Falcon rocket to service after the loss of a mission in June 2015. A backlog of payloads, including an ISS-bound Dragon cargo craft, await.

SpaceX Set to Retry Cargo Run, Rocket Stage Landing (Updated)

Jason Davis • January 05, 2015

SpaceX will attempt to launch a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station and land a used Falcon 9 rocket stage on an uncrewed spaceport in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Rocket Breaks Apart En Route to International Space Station

Jason Davis • June 28, 2015

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean during today's flight to the International Space Station.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Returns to Flight, Sticks Landing at Cape Canaveral

Jason Davis • December 21, 2015

SpaceX returned its Falcon 9 rocket to flight with flair tonight, successfully deploying 11 communications satellites after returning the rocket's first stage to Cape Canaveral for an upright landing.

SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon Propulsion System Development Testing

Jason Davis • November 11, 2015

SpaceX has completed development testing on its SuperDraco propulsion system, used to propel the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft away from a Falcon rocket in the event of a launch failure.

Spacewalkers Unstick Cart ahead of Cargo Ship Arrival

Jason Davis • December 21, 2015

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra successfully completed a spacewalk to free a stuck Mobile Transporter cart outside the International Space Station.

Spacewalk Timelapse Makes Cable Routing Look Fun

Jason Davis • February 23, 2015

A timelapse video shows two NASA astronauts as they became typical neighborhood cable technicians—except for the fact that they were wearing space suits.

Space Station Update: Launch Logistics

Jason Davis • August 07, 2015

Orbital ATK says they are making progress returning Antares to flight, NASA buys more Soyuz seats and the ISS program manager moves on to private industry.

Software Glitch Pauses LightSail Test Mission

Jason Davis • May 26, 2015

The Planetary Society’s LightSail test mission has been paused while engineers wait out a suspected software glitch that has silenced the solar sailing spacecraft.

SLS Sheds White Paint, Completes Critical Design Review

Jason Davis • October 22, 2015

NASA's Space Launch System officially shed the core stage's white paint job in favor of the vehicle's natural, orange-colored insulation.

SLS Engine Roars through Flight Test in Mississippi

Jason Davis • August 13, 2015

NASA completed the sixth and next-to-last test firing of its RS-25 engine Thursday in Mississippi. Four RS-25 engines power the Space Launch System core stage.

Sails in Space: Partial Photo, Video and Light Curve (Updated)

Jason Davis • June 08, 2015

It’s official: The sails are out. This afternoon, LightSail mission controllers downlinked a partial image of the spacecraft’s solar sails in space.

Russian Resupply Ship Spins Out Of Control after Reaching Orbit

Jason Davis • April 28, 2015

An International Space Station-bound cargo craft is spinning out of control in Earth orbit following an afternoon launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russia Moves to Support ISS through 2024, Create New Space Station

Jason Davis • February 26, 2015

The future of the International Space Station is a little clearer this week, following a statement from Russia supporting an extension of the orbiting complex through 2024.

Report: NASA May Be Hard-Pressed to Launch SLS by November 2018

Jason Davis • March 20, 2015

A report released by NASA’s Office of Inspector General warns that the agency may be hard-pressed to have its Kennedy Space Center launch facilities ready by November 2018.

Report Finds SLS Cost and Schedule Estimates Tight, but on Track

Jason Davis • July 17, 2015

The GAO says NASA is generally doing a good job with cost and schedule estimates for SLS, its new heavy lift rocket. But NASA is also running short on schedule margin as it works to have SLS ready for flight by November 2018.

Reconstructing What Happened at Sea, as Dragon Arrives at Station

Jason Davis • January 12, 2015

Following a routine two-day voyage, SpaceX's Dragon capsule pulled in to port at the International Space Station. Meanwhile, tweets from CEO Elon Musk give clues on what happened at sea.

Rail-riding ISS Cart Jams, Prompting Contingency Spacewalk Plans

Jason Davis • December 18, 2015

A rail-riding cart weighing nearly a metric ton jammed while moving along the International Space Station's exterior yesterday, prompting ground controllers in Houston to prepare for an unscheduled spacewalk.

Pushing Back the Frontier: How The Planetary Society Helped Send a Spacecraft to Pluto

Jason Davis • July 07, 2015

It took 16 years and five spacecraft designs to get a mission to Pluto. The Planetary Society was there through it all, always striving to help NASA push back our solar system's frontier.

Preview: Cygnus to Resume ISS Cargo Runs with Help from Atlas V Rocket

Jason Davis • December 02, 2015

Orbital ATK is returning its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to service on Thursday. This time, the ride to orbit will be a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Preview: 2016 aboard the International Space Station

Jason Davis • December 30, 2015

A look ahead to see what's in store for the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard humanity's orbital outpost.

Pretty Picture: A Sweeping View of the Martian South Pole

Jason Davis • September 10, 2015

The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft captured a sweeping view of Mars' south pole, along with a region extending northward to Hellas Basin.

Pretty (Partial) Picture: LightSail Catches a Glimpse of Earth

Jason Davis • June 10, 2015

With the team still trying to download an image from LightSail's second camera, Emily Lakdawalla processed a partial image from the first camera that contains a slice of Earth.

Preparing America’s Spaceport for NASA’s New Rocket

Jason Davis • June 22, 2015

At Kennedy Space Center, NASA's ground systems program prepares for the first flight of the Space Launch System in 2018.

Orion Service Module Faces Roller Coaster of a Ride in Sandusky

Jason Davis • December 01, 2015

The Orion European Service Module test article has arrived at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, where it's being prepared for acoustic and vibration testing.

Orion Enters Fabrication Phase, but Possible Launch Slip Looms

Jason Davis • September 16, 2015

NASA's Orion spacecraft has officially moved from preliminary design to fabrication, but the agency says the first crewed flight of the vehicle could slip two years, from 2021 to 2023.

One-Year ISS Mission Preview: 28 Experiments, 4 Expeditions and 2 Crew Members

Jason Davis • March 25, 2015

This Friday, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will embark for a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station.

On Station's 15th Anniversary, A Look at Astronaut Utilization

Jason Davis • November 04, 2015

An analysis by The Planetary Society shows that in the post-space shuttle era, NASA astronauts spend roughly 33 percent less time aboard the International Space Station than their Russian counterparts.

Of Course I Still Love You, Falcon: New SpaceX Ship Ready to Catch Rockets

Jason Davis • June 25, 2015

SpaceX is gearing up for its seventh paid cargo run to the International Space Station, and the third attempt to catch the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the ocean.

No Major Problems with SLS Design, NASA Managers Say

Jason Davis • August 19, 2015

A key review of NASA’s Space Launch System did not uncover any major problems with the rocket's design, officials said at Stennis Space Center near Gulfport, Mississippi.

New Crew Arrives at ISS following Docking Drama

Jason Davis • December 15, 2015

Following a picture-perfect launch and some last minute docking drama, Tim Kopra, Tim Peake and Yuri Malenchenko arrived safely to the International Space Station today.

NASA-sponsored SmallSats Get Dedicated Rides to Space

Jason Davis • October 14, 2015

NASA-sponsored small satellites will soon have dedicated rides to space, thanks to a new, light-duty rocket program called Venture Class Launch Services, or VCLS.

NASA's Journey to Mars Report: A Plan to Form a Strategy for a Concept

Jason Davis • October 12, 2015

NASA released a much-anticipated strategy document outlining the agency's next steps for getting humans to Mars, but the report lacks details. What should we make of it?

NASA Orders First Official SpaceX Crew Flight to ISS

Jason Davis • November 23, 2015

NASA placed its first official order for a SpaceX Crew Dragon to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, the agency announced Friday.

NASA Completes First Test Firing of SLS Core Stage Engine (Updated)

Jason Davis • January 09, 2015

NASA completed a 500-second test firing of the RS-25 engine, which will power the core stage of the Space Launch System.

NASA Budget Lists Timelines, Costs and Risks for First SLS Flight

Jason Davis • February 03, 2015

NASA will set the Space Launch System's inaugural flight date at the end of this year, according to the agency's 2016 budget request, which was released on Monday.

NASA and Orbital ATK Complete SLS Booster Test (Updated)

Jason Davis • March 11, 2015

A blast of fire and smoke lit up the hills of Promontory, Utah this morning as NASA and Orbital ATK completed a test firing of a Space Launch System solid rocket booster.

Meet NASA's Winning Asteroid Redirect Spacecraft, and the Asteroid It May Visit

Jason Davis • March 25, 2015

NASA has decided to pluck a small boulder off a large asteroid, instead of bagging an entire asteroid outright, the agency announced Wednesday.

LightSail Workshop Recaps Lessons Learned from Test Mission

Jason Davis • July 16, 2015

The LightSail team held a workshop in Pasadena to discuss lessons learned from the test mission and plan for the second flight in 2016.

LightSail Update: All Systems Nominal

Jason Davis • May 21, 2015

It's been 24 hours since The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft was deposited into space yesterday afternoon. All systems continue to look healthy.

LightSail Test Mission Ends with Fiery Reentry

Jason Davis • June 15, 2015

The LightSail test mission is officially over. Following a 25-day stay in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft tumbled back into Earth’s atmosphere Sunday afternoon.

LightSail Test Mission Declared Success; First Image Complete

Jason Davis • June 09, 2015

The Planetary Society’s LightSail test mission successfully completed its primary objective of deploying a solar sail in low-Earth orbit.

LightSail Team Prepares for Sail Deployment

Jason Davis • May 30, 2015

LightSail is almost ready for its moment in the sun. Mission managers are preparing for a manual solar sail deployment this week.

LightSail Solar Panel Deployment: No Pics, but Data Look Good

Jason Davis • June 03, 2015

LightSail didn’t send home pretty pictures of Earth today, but it did relay promising signs that its deployable solar panels swung successfully out into space.

LightSail Sends First Data Back to Earth

Jason Davis • May 20, 2015

LightSail is sending home telemetry following a Wednesday commute to orbit aboard an Atlas V rocket.

LightSail Readiness Tests Prepare Team for Mission Operations

Jason Davis • April 24, 2015

The LightSail team continues to prepare for the spacecraft's May test flight with a series of readiness simulations that mimic on-orbit operations.

LightSail Project Manager Passes Torch

Jason Davis • July 01, 2015

LightSail project manager Doug Stetson, who helped bring the program from a storage shelf to low-Earth orbit, is passing the torch.

LightSail Program Wraps Busy Year with Test Readiness Review

Jason Davis • December 17, 2015

On Monday, LightSail engineers and mission managers met at The Planetary Society's Pasadena, California headquarters to prepare for a rigorous suite of spacecraft tests that are expected to begin in January.

LightSail Nominated for SmallSat Mission of the Year

Jason Davis • August 11, 2015

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft has been nominated for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Small Satellite Technical Committee Mission of the Year 2015 award.

LightSail Launch Delayed until at least May 20

Jason Davis • April 13, 2015

The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft will have to wait at least two more weeks before setting sail on its maiden voyage.

LightSail Launch Countdown: Ready for Rollout

Jason Davis • May 18, 2015

It’s launch week in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft is buttoned up for flight aboard an Atlas V rocket. Liftoff is scheduled Wednesday sometime between 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. EDT.

LightSail Lands New Hardware for Laser Ranging

Jason Davis • August 18, 2015

A cluster of small mirrors will be added to LightSail's aft hull to allow engineers to precisely track its position as it sails around the planet next year.

LightSail Gets Backup Burn Wire for 2016 Mission

Jason Davis • September 25, 2015

LightSail's burn wire, the mission-critical component responsible for releasing the spacecraft's solar panels, will get a backup ahead of next year's solar sailing mission.

LightSail Featured on CBS Evening News

Jason Davis • March 16, 2015

The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft made an appearance on national television Monday night during a two-minute segment by CBS Evening News.

LightSail Falls Silent; Battery Glitch Suspected

Jason Davis • June 04, 2015

The LightSail test spacecraft fell silent for a second time, less than a day after completing what appeared to be a successful solar panel deployment.

LightSail Drama Continues as Spacecraft Wakes for Second Time

Jason Davis • June 06, 2015

LightSail is back in business, following the second extended outage of the test spacecraft’s mission. The CubeSat checked in at 2:21 p.m. EDT Saturday.

LightSail Deployment Update: Panels Wednesday, Sails Friday

Jason Davis • June 02, 2015

LightSail Mission Managers have decided to split the spacecraft’s sail deployment sequence into two segments, following an extended checkout period that wrapped up Tuesday.

LightSail Deployer Passes Prox-1 Fit Check

Jason Davis • October 26, 2015

At Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo engineers loaded a P-POD replica into the partially assembled frame of the Prox-1 spacecraft. The meetup was a fit check to make sure the two pieces of hardware fit together as designed.

LightSail Arrives in Florida; More Launch Details Revealed

Jason Davis • March 09, 2015

A cadre of CubeSats including The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft completed a cross-country journey to Florida, where they await installation aboard an Atlas V rocket.

LightSail and Prox-1 Start Testing and Integration Process

Jason Davis • October 16, 2015

On opposite sides of the United States, teams are starting the testing process to prepare two spacecraft for a one-of-a-kind in-space rendezvous.

Liftoff! LightSail Sails into Space aboard Atlas V Rocket

Jason Davis • May 20, 2015

The first of The Planetary Society’s two LightSail spacecraft is now in space following a late morning launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launch Pad Animals, Ranked

Jason Davis • March 19, 2015

A semi-authoritative ranking of creatures that co-inhabit rocket launch sites around the world.

It's Official: LightSail Test Flight Scheduled for May 2015

Jason Davis • January 26, 2015

This May, the first of The Planetary Society's two member-funded LightSail spacecraft is slated to hitch a ride to space for a test flight aboard an Atlas V rocket.

ISS-bound Cargo Spacecraft Doomed to Atmospheric Reentry

Jason Davis • April 29, 2015

The six crew members aboard the International Space Station will have to go without a scheduled delivery of food, supplies and fuel.

Interview with an SLS Engineer: How Booster Test May Help Drive Golden Spike for Interplanetary Railroad

Jason Davis • March 10, 2015

With NASA and Orbital ATK preparing for an important test tomorrow in Utah, an SLS engineer describes the inner workings of the vehicle's new solid rocket boosters.

In Pictures: West Virginia from Space

Jason Davis • July 29, 2015

Jason Davis shares five images of his home state, West Virginia, taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

In Pictures: SpaceX Crew Dragon Takes Flight in Pad Abort Test

Jason Davis • May 06, 2015

A SpaceX Crew Dragon rocketed into the sky under its own power this morning, completing a critical milestone necessary to certify the spacecraft for crewed flights in 2017.

In Pictures: Russian Spacecraft Ends Streak of Station Supply Mishaps

Jason Davis • July 05, 2015

Following back-to-back space station resupply failures, a Russian Progress vehicle pulled into port this morning at the International Space Station.

In Pictures: Orion, SLS Hardware on the Move

Jason Davis • November 06, 2015

November is shaping up to be a busy month for Orion and Space Launch System hardware. A human-rated flight engine is in the test stand at Stennis Space Center, and a version of Orion's service module is getting ready to cross the Atlantic.

In Pictures: One-Year ISS Mission Begins

Jason Davis • March 28, 2015

The one-year ISS mission of Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko began with an early morning launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

In Pictures: LightSail’s Rocket Rolls to the Launch Pad

Jason Davis • May 19, 2015

Pictures of The Planetary Society’s LightSail spacecraft rollout to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41.

In Pictures: LightSail’s Final Days in Space

Jason Davis • June 12, 2015

LightSail’s brief stay in orbit is almost over. Here are a few photos and videos of the spacecraft from observers around the world.

In Pictures: LightSail, Meet X-37B

Jason Davis • May 08, 2015

United Launch Alliance has released photos showing the Air Force's X-37B spaceplane being stacked on its Atlas V at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In Pictures: LightSail Cameras Prepped for Flight

Jason Davis • November 25, 2015

LightSail's flight cameras are being prepped for installation after receiving a software upgrade and checkout from their manufacturer.

In Pictures: Expedition 42 Crew Returns to Earth

Jason Davis • March 12, 2015

Three International Space Station crew members are back on Earth today following a morning Soyuz landing on the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan.

In Pictures: DSCOVR Headed for Deep Space

Jason Davis • February 12, 2015

On Wednesday evening, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketed into orbit with DSCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory. Here's a photo and video roundup.

In Pictures: A Partial Solar Eclipse from Space

Jason Davis • September 15, 2015

Two sun-observing spacecraft in Earth orbit captured images of a partial solar eclipse Sunday morning.

How to Download Weather Satellite Images from Space

Jason Davis • September 21, 2015

For less than $50, you can download images from NOAA satellites using your laptop and a small radio antenna.

How LightSail Holds Its Place in Space

Jason Davis • February 20, 2015

There are few systems aboard a spacecraft more important than attitude control. This infographic shows how LightSail holds its place in space.

For LightSail Test Mission, Waiting is the Hardest Part

Jason Davis • May 29, 2015

The Planetary Society's LightSail spacecraft is now entering its second week of silence.

FOIA Request Sheds Light on NASA Mission Extension Process

Jason Davis • February 06, 2015

A FOIA request offers insight into NASA's planetary science extended mission review process, which seems, at best, confusing, and at worst—with adjectival ratings like “Very Good/Good”—arbitrary.

First Look: Partial Camera Test Images from LightSail

Jason Davis • June 01, 2015

A jumbled JPG never looked so pretty. This afternoon, LightSail sent home pieces of two images taken by one of the spacecraft's onboard cameras.

Expedition 45 Crew Makes Nighttime Landing in Kazakhstan

Jason Davis • December 11, 2015

Three International Space Station crewmembers are safely back on Earth following a post-sunset Soyuz touchdown in Kazakhstan.

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