Weekly Space Blog 7/27

As we approach the end of July it seems things in the Commercial arena are ramping up, this week in space.

Falcon 9 v1.1 arriving for launch
The first of the next generation of Falcon 9 rockets have started to arrive at the Vandenburg launch site.  The v1.1 vehicle has several significant upgrades that pave the way for heavier payloads to be delivered to orbit.  Included in the upgrades is a longer core stage which will hold more fuel, upgraded Merlin 1D engines which are easier to manufacture and provide more thrust.  The first mission for the new version of the rocket will also be the first to include a payload fairing. Check out the full article here.

Boeing CST-100 preview
This week Boeing released a preview of the inside of there CST-100 spacecraft.  As part of the preview two NASA Astronauts Serena Aunon and Randy Bresnik conducted flight suit evaluations inside the vehicle.  Check out the full article here, including video.

Orion Parachute Test successful
This week NASA dropped the test Orion test vehicle from the highest altitude yet and also tested what would happen if one of the parachutes failed to deploy correctly.  The test was success and the test vehicle landed safely with just two of the three primary parachutes.  For more information check out the full article here.

Ariane 5 Launch
This week the reliable Ariane 5 rocket successfully delivered two more satellites to orbit.  Check out the full article here.

3D Printed Rocket Engine Parts
A hot fire test performed recently showed that Rocket Engine parts created via a 3D Printing process rival those created via more traditional methods.  The injector which was manufactured in 3 weeks compared to 6 months and half the cost, was subject to 6000 degree’s during the test and showed no difference in performance between the parts.  Check out the full article here.

And Finally

Earth from Saturn

This week the Cassini Spacecraft in orbit of Saturn took a picture of Earth.

Weekly Space Blog 7/20

ISS Space Walk
This week’s space walk at the International Space Station was cut short due to a water leak problem in Luca P’s suit.  Both astronauts where able to complete the first of there assigned tasks before the problem with the suit and due to the build up of water in the helmet of Luca’s suit Houston decided to terminate the walk and bring the astronauts back in early.  None of the tasks assigned during this EVA were critical to the station operations.  After the EVA it was reported that the water had a strange taste to it indicating that it wasn’t likely to be the drinking water that was leaking.  As of today they are still investigating what could have caused the leak but have indicated that it wasn’t the water bag.
New Neptune Moon found
The 14th moon of Neptune was revealed this week, using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.  Designated S/2004 N 1 it is estimated to be approximate 12 miles across making it one of the smallest moons in the Neptunian System and orbit’s once ever 23 hours.  For further information check out the article here.
Moon Express News
This week the Moon Express team announced the World’s First Mission to the Moon’s South Pole as well as the opening of a propulsion development facility.
The Moon South Pole mission in cooperation with the International Lunar Observatory Association will be both scientific and commercial.  The lander will bring with it commercial communication systems as well as a 2 meter dish antenna to allow AstroPhysics observations to be performed.  For further information check out the full article here.
To enable this and other missions to be successful Moon Express has also opened a facility dedicated to developing propulsion technology needed to land vehicles on the moon.  Further information can be found here.
Mars Atmosphere History
A couple of papers were recently released based on data gather by Curiosity of the Martian Atmosphere.  The papers based on the analysis of the atmosphere by SAM indicates that it was thicker in the past.  For further information check out the full article here.
Atlas 5 Launch
This week the heaviest satellite payload ever launched was successfully launched into space using a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5.  Following a countdown that was delay once due to weather constrains the vehicle blasted off at 9am EST carrying the MUOS 2 communication satellite for the US Navy.  Following a flawless launch and several firings of the second stage the spacecraft was deployed to it’s initial orbit.  Check out the fall article here.
And Finally
There wasn’t as much news this week, however I have embarked on a new investigation.
There has been a lot of press recently about 3D Printing in Space and as a way to create habitats on Mars etc.  This got me thinking about how to supply the 3D Printer with the materials needed to actually create anything.  For example if we were able to place a 3D Printer on Mars how would we be able to take the soil and create objects?  I am going to use this section in future blogs to detail some of my findings, if you have any thoughts or suggestions please add a comment.

Weekly Space Blog 7/13

Another week has come and gone and the stories continue to flow in, this week we have a number of exciting stories plus four Kickstarter projects related to space.

Bold New Plan for first SLS/Orion Launch
This week NASA managers announced the new plan which would see the first uncrewed mission named EM-1 travel to 40,000 miles beyond the moon.  Due to the change in the mission it will not take approximately 25 days to complete, with 18 of those used for the travel time and the rest performing tests at the destination point.  For more information check out the full article here.

Curiosity on the Move
The Mars Rover Curiosity has begun it’s epic drive to Mt. Sharp, expected to take the next year to complete the rover is making a 5 mile journey to a spot which will allow it access Mt. Sharp’s lower reaches.  Check out the latest new on the rover here.

Mars Rover 2020 Plans announced
This week a NASA Science Team outlined the goals for the next Rover to head to Mars, based on the same design as Curiosity the rover will look for signs of past life on Mars as well as collect samples for a possible future Sample Return mission.  Check out the press release here and more information is available here.

Ariane 6 News
This week European Ministers approved the start of preparatory activities for Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle.  For more information on the rocket design and goals check out the press release here.

NASA’s Polar Robotic Ranger
Rover succeeds in the harsh environment of Greenland a new NASA Rover passed a series of tests.  Known as GROVER for Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, it was designed by a team of students attending boot camps at Goddard.  Despite the harsh weather the rover performed well during the 5 weeks of testing.  For addition information check out the article here.

ISS Space Walk
This week Astronauts Christopher Cassidy and Luca Parmitano completed the 170th Space Walk devoted to station assembly and maintenance.  Chris was performing his four space walk while this was Luca’s first.  They were able to perform all the originally planned tasks for the walk as well as several get-ahead tasks.  Both will be suiting up again on Tuesday for another spacewalk.

Astronomer’s witness birth of Star
Scientists using the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile witness the birth of a massive star approximately 10,000 light years from earth in a dark cloud core.  The star is 500 times the mass of our Sun and brighter making it one of the largest stars in our galaxy.  For more information check out the full article here.

Solar System Tail Viewed
Using the IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft scientists have been able to map out the structure of the tail that our solar system produces.  We have seen similar tails around other stars but until now have not been able to determine if our own star actually had one.  For more information check out the article here.

Future ISS Crew Members Announced
This week NASA and it’s International Partners in the space station announced three new crew members who will launch in June 2015 and make up part of the Expedition 44/45 crews aboard the station.  The three are NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Japanese Exploration Aerospace Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.  For more information and the full bio’s for the crew members check out the article here.

Hubble Spots Blue Planet
Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have for the first time been able to determine the color of a planet orbiting an distance star.  The planet called HD 189733b if viewed up close would be a cobalt blue color similar to Earth when viewed from space.  However unlike Earth this is a Gas Giant that is orbiting very close to its star.  Check out the full article here.

Solar Tsunami used to measure Sun’s Magnetic Field
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Japanese Hinode spacecraft have been used to provide the first accurate estimates of the Sun’s magnetic field.  The Tsunami’s are created by massive explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere and by observing the effects of these they were able to determine that the Sun’s magnetic field is ten times weaker than a fridge magnet.  For more information check out the article here.

Dream Chaser News
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have completed the initial tow tests of their Dream Chaser spacecraft which is in the running for Commercial Crew missions to the ISS.  The initial tests are designed to validate the performance of the craft and it’s equipment.  For futher information check out the article here.

Kickstarter Projects
It would seem that following the success of the ARKYD project on Kickstarter a number of others have started new projects for Space related missions.

VASIMR – Create Video of VASIMR missions
CAT – A Thruster for CubeSats
LunarSail – World First Lunar Sail Mission
Moon Spacecraft – Send your own Spacecraft to the Moon
And Finally
Here are some additional articles I found but haven’t summarized in the blog.

Weekly Space Blog 7/6

Another busy week in space

Cassini captures picture of Saturn Moon Janus
This week Cassini returned a picture of one of Saturn’s small lumpy moon’s named Janus, the moon doesn’t have sufficient gravity to pull itself into a round shape as seen with most other moons.  For more pictures of the moon check out the web page here.

Ad Astra VF-200 Reaches important review milestone
This week Ad Astra Rocket Company announced that they had completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for their 200kW engine design for testing in space.  After more than a year of planning the Ad Astra Engineers and Physicists as well as NASA engineers completed the review.  The PDR incorporates the knowledge gained over several years from the VX-200 test engine as well as multiple conceptual designs carried out by Ad Astra.  This is an important step towards the flight of the VF-200 engine on the International Space Station in the future.  For further information check out the press release here.

ExoPlanet News
Three articles appeared this week regarding ExoPlanets.  The first reported the findings of a study by the University of Chicago suggests that the habitable zone of ExoPlanets can be extended by cloud behavior on the planet.  The results show that the influence of cloud cover could double the number of habitable planets found around Red Dwarf starts meaning that in our galaxy alone there could be 60+ billion planets.  For more information check out the press release here.

The second report Astronomers have uncovered the hidden identity of an ExoPlanet orbiting the star HD 97658.  Based on there observations they estimate the planet HD 97658b is between 2 and 8 times the size of Earth, while the planet itself is not new the size and mass of the planet is.  For more information check out the article here.

The third article to appear relates not to actual ExoPlanet’s but instead to their moons, the search for ExoMoons.  A team led by Dr. David Kipping at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has jumped at this challenge.  For further information check out the paper here.

World Premiere of IMAX 3D Hidden Universe
This week saw the World Premiere of the new IMAX 3D movie Hidden Universe.  Check out the official web site for more information and current locations to see it.

ARKYD Funded
Following a frantic finish including a four hour live presentation and $100,000 donation from Richard Branson the Planetary Resources team raised over $1.6m for the telescope.  They are currently planning to launch an grace period to allow those who weren’t able to contribute to still be involved.  Check out the page here.

Indian PSLV Launch
This week a Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carrier the first of the Indian Regional Satellite Navigation System spacecraft into orbit.  Following a successful launch the spacecraft was placed into the expected transfer orbit.  The system will eventually consist of four spacecraft and will provide navigation accuracy to India to about 20 meters.

Proton Launch Failure
The Russian space program suffered a major setback this week when one of their unmanned Proton rockets failed 20 seconds into it’s mission.  The rocket launched as expected but very soon it was clear something was very wrong when the craft veered to the left and then right before breaking apart and exploding.  Future flights of the Proton have been suspending pending the outcome of a review to determine what caused the failure.

ISS Changes position for Solar Science
This week the International Space Station changed it’s position to accommodate Solar Science research being performed by European Scientists into what the solar activities mean for our planet.  Check out the full article here.

SpaceX completed two more milestones
SpaceX announced this week that they had completed two more milestones in their CCiCap plan towards manned spaceflight using the Dragon vehicle.  In the first milestone SpaceX outlined the steps they will take towards certifying there system for human spaceflight.  In the second they outlined the plan for their Pad Abort test which will demonstrate the ability for the Dragon Spacecraft to fly away from the Falcon Rocket should something go wrong during launch.  For more information check out the press release here and while you are there check out NASA new web site layout.

NASA lays out plans for Commercial Crew Test Flights
This week NASA announced their plans for the actual test flights utilizing Commercial Vehicles to the International Space Station.  These flights will include NASA astronauts onboard and result in a visit to the ISS.  The new test phase called CCtCap is expected to kick off next summer and will include at least one crewed test flight.  For further information check out the press release here.

Two new Pluto Moon names revealed
This week the two newest of Pluto’s five known moon were named Kerberos and Styx.  The names were actually placed second and third in an international competition to name the moons, however the winning entry Vulcan was vetoed by the International Astronomy Union.

Cluster detects elusive Solar Wind
The Cluster spacecraft has provided conclusive evidence of a space wind proposed 20 years ago.  Analysis of the data returned by the spacecraft showed a slow but steady wind releasing about 1kg of plasma from the plasmasphere around our planet.  For more information check out he article here.

Gemini Observatory New Optics
2013_saaa_legacy_med_945Astronomers recently got their hands on Gemini Observatory’s revolutionary new adaptive optics system, called GeMS, “and the data are truly spectacular!” says Robert Blum, Deputy Director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory with funding by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

For further information check out the full article here.

Opportunity just keeps going
The Mars Rover Opportunity has reached the half way mark of it’s journey to “Solander Point.” where mission control plans for it to spend the next Martian Winter.  The rover which touched down on the red planet Jan 24, 2004 to begin a 90 sol (Martian Day) mission is rapidly approaching 10 years on the planet.

NASA readies rescue plan for Kepler
The team behind the successful Kepler mission announced this week that they will being trying to revive the spacecraft mid to late July.

And Finally
I have decided to change this section to list some of the great video(s) that I find during the week.  Enjoy

The Next-Generation Canadarn 
Karen Nyberg chat 
Next Space Station Spacewalk Brief