Weekly Space Blog 9/21

Another amazing week in space…

Cygnus Successfully Launched
Antares_LaunchWith the exception of one issue with the fuel system that caused a slight delay in the launch time Orbital successfully launched there Antares Rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft.  The Cygnus is currently on route to the International Space Station and once a number of demonstration steps have been completed successfully is due to berth with the station tomorrow.

Once the vehicle has been unloaded the ISS crew will load items that are no longer needed, after about 30 days at the station it will unberth.  Unlike the Dragon spacecraft the Cygnus cannot return back to earth but instead burns up during re-entry.

Latest reports show the the spacecraft has successfully fired it’s main engine’s to alter it’s course to the station, a number of the tests are performed close to the station to verify that the approach and capture can be aborted if needed.  Once all the tests are passed NASA and Orbital will have a final go-no-go poll before the craft enters the keep out zone around the station so that it can be captured by the crew using the station arm.

SpaceX Static Fire Test Update
The first static fire test of the new Falcon 9 v1.1 showed up some anomalies, due to this SpaceX attempted another test this week which was successful.  However due to the delay’s caused by needing the second test launch of the new version has been delayed until 9/29 to accommodate ICBM tests at the launch site.

Atlas 5 launch successful
A secure communications satellite was launched from the cape this week by an Atlas 5 for the U.S. Air Force.  This was the first of two large launches on the same day on the U.S. East Coast, the second was the Orbital launch of Cygnus seven hours later.

Next Station Crew Soyuz Integrated
The Soyuz TMA-10M vehicle was integrated with it’s Launcher this week in preparations for the launch of Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, both with Russia’s Federal Space Agency on 9/26.  The next major milestone in this preparations will be roll out to the launch pad expected on Monday 9/23.

Deep Impact Update
Following a month of attempts to re-establish contact with the now silent spacecraft NASA to announced that the mission is over.  Engineer’s suspect that the vehicle lost stabilization control and was no longer pointing it’s Solar Array’s at the sun causing the battery’s to run out.  The vehicle was tremendous successful having completed all of it’s primary mission objects as well as returning approximately 500,000 images of different space objects.

Space Alien Claim
This week a scientist if Britain claimed to have evidence of Alien Life taken from sample obtained from the upper atmosphere.  The story got quite a lot of traction on some new media however was very quickly debunked.  The same scientist has made similar claims in the past and each time has proven to be wrong because there has never been scientific evidence to back up his claims.

Life on Mars Update
Hope’s of finding life on Mars faded a little this week when a study by the Mars Curiosity Rover detected only trace amounts of Methane in the atmosphere.  Of course if Mars One or other’s get there way this will change in the next couple of decades as human’s will visit the planet and bring with them microbes and other forms of life.

India Mars Mission spacecraft revealed
mangalyaan-mars-orbiter-isro-india-lgThe week India unveiled it’s first Mars Spacecraft expected to launch later in late October or early November.  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the vehicle will have five scientific instruments on-board designed to conduct various experiments while orbiting the planet.  The vehicle is expected to arrive at the planet in September 2014 following a 9 month cruise.

Boeing Tests CST-100 Thrusters
This week Boeing announced that it has completed a series of tests of the thrusters that will be used on the CST-100 Spacecraft when in orbit.  In combination with Aerojet Rocketdyne the thruster manufacturer the tests assessed how the thrusters performed in different scenarios as would be expected in space operations.  This is a significant step forward in the design of the spacecraft which is designed to talk crew into LEO.

Chinese Space Station final days
The Chinese Space Agency announced that their first Space Station Tiangong was entering it’s final month’s of operation before a fiery re-entry into earth’s atmosphere.  Tiangong hosted two different crews during it’s lifetime and brought the Chinese one step closer to having a permanent presence in space.

And Finally
While not related to Space I wanted to share the news from Elon Musk that Tesla are currently looking for Engineer’s to work on autonomous driving option for the Tesla Model S car.  According to Elon they plan to use 360 deg flush mounted camera’s and radar which will require lost of image processing capabilities.  Anyone interested should email autopilot@teslamotors.com, the team will report directly to Elon.

 

Weekly Space Blog 9/14

We are back again with our weekly blog and what a week it has been for space news.

Voyager has left the Solar System
This week the Voyager Science Team announced that the long serving Voyager 1 spacecraft had left the solar system, making it the first human made object to achieve the feat.  As one of the team said this is a milestone as significant as Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

36 years in the making and 12 billion miles from home the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already provided us with a wealthy of information from it’s flyby’s of Jupiter and Saturn and from it’s journey through several layers of the outer solar system.

So what is next for Voyager 1, the spacecraft itself has enough power to keep the current science instruments running for a few more years, at that point the science team will begin to power down different instruments until they are all silent.  The spacecraft will still have enough power to operate for a number of years after that but will only be able to return engineering data on the health of the craft.  Once the spacecraft has run out of power it will continue it’s journey towards AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis in about 40,000 years from now.

For more information on the Voyager spacecraft check out there mission page here.

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 News
This week SpaceX performed the first Static Fire of the new Falcon 9 v1.1 at their Vandenberg launch pad.  SpaceX CEO tweeted later in the day that they had achieved full thrust for 2 seconds during the test, however due to some anomalies found during the test they will be performing another test on Saturday 9/14 and will announce a new launch date once the data has been analyzed.

Orbital Approaches Launch
The first operational Cygnus spacecraft rolled out to the launch pad this week for a 9/17 launch to the International Space Station, this will be the final test launch of the Antares and Cygnus vehicles under the COTS program for NASA.  Assuming nothing goes wrong Orbital will then begin commercial resupply missions to the station to augment those provided by SpaceX currently.

Japan’s Epsilon Launched Successfully
Following an aborted countdown recently, Japan successfully launched there new Epsilon rocket this week.  The new rocket which has been designed to make launches cheaper and more efficient completed it’s first launch by placing a compact telescope into orbit.

Well that is all for this week, a short post but more to come next week

Weekly Space Blog 8/24

WISE approved for asteroid survey
NASA announced this week that the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft will be taken out of hibernation to start a three year mission to search for Near Earth Objects.  While the primary instruments on the vehicle required frozen hydrogen to operate which ran out in 2011 the other instruments do not and these will be used for the new mission named NEOWISE.  The science team will be contacting the vehicle in September to begin operations again.

Dream Chaser Captive Carry Test

Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich
Credit: NASA / Ken Ulbrich

This week the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser spacecraft completed a two hour captive carry test over Edwards Airforce base.  This was the first time that a fully operation version of the vehicle had flown and gave engineers the chance to review all systems before a series of approach and landing tests will be performed.  Initial tests will be fully automated before crewed tests are performed.

The Dream Chaser vehicle is one of three competing for the chance to launch US crews to the International Space Station.  Personally I hope there is a way to fund all three vehicles to give the US unprecedented access to space for the future.

 

Gaia spacecraft at launch site
The European Galaxy Explorer spacecraft Gaia has arrived in French Guiana to begin three months of flight preparations before a November launch aboard a Soyuz Rocket.  Once launched the vehicle will be placed a million miles from Earth and will use dual telescopes to map the precise locations of stars.  For more information on the vehicle and missions check out it’s page here.

Hubble Time-lapse Movie
This week Astronomers released a movie showing 13 years of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of super-heated gas 5,000 light years long.  The gas is being ejected from a super-massive black hole for more information and to see the movie check out the press release here.

Starbirth as seen by ALMA
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have released the image below showing material streaming away from a newborn star.  For more information on the observations check out the full article here.

Starbirth as seen by ALMA © ESO
Starbirth as seen by ALMA
© ESO

Curiosity Movie of Mars Moons
This week NASA released a video capture by the Mars Curiosity Rover of the Mars moons Phobos passing in front of Deimos.  This is the first time any vehicle on the surface of Mars has captured one of the moons passing in front of the other.  For information and to see the movie check out the article here.

Another successful Russian Spacewalk concludes
Once again Russian Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin ventured outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk.  Unlike the walk last week that broke the record for longest by a Russian team this walked came in just short of 6 hours.  The pair were able to successfully complete the objectives set out for them including one that didn’t look possible during to misalignment of the parts.

The spacewalk was the 173rd in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the eighth of Yurchikhin’s career and the third for Misurkin.

Spitzer Space Telescope celebrates ten anniversary
The Infrared Space Telescope was launched into space ten years ago this week, the fourth of the four Great Observatories launched by NASA it continues to show us the dark side of the cosmos with it’s infrared vision.  For more information on it’s mission and to see the images it has returned check out the mission page here.

Fermi Space Telescope enters extended mission
Meanwhile the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope celebrated it’s five year in space by entering into an extended mission to perform a deeper study of the high-energy cosmos.  The vehicle has already provided Astronomers with a detailed potrait of gaint black holes in distance galaxies and even details of thunderstorms on Earth.  For more information on Fermi check out it’s mission page here.

And Finally
The Astronaut Class of 2013 met with the media this week for the final time before they embark on their two year training program.  Check out the release here including video’s and interviews with the eight.

Weekly Space Blog 8/17

We are back after a two week break to enjoy the New England summer, this week we have lots of great news.

Russian Cosmonauts set new Space Walk Record
The week two Russian Cosmonauts broke the space walk endurance record by complete a 7h 29m excursion outside the International Space Station.  Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin were originally scheduled for a 6h 30m walk but Russian officials elected to extend the walk to allow them time to complete a task originally planned for a later walk.  The previous record was set in 1990 by two Cosmonauts working outside the Mir Space Station.

NASA looks at new mission for Kepler
After several attempts to restore the failed Gyroscopes on the Kepler spacecraft Mission planners have determined that the primary mission of the spacecraft cannot be restored and are instead looking at way to utilize the craft in it’s current configuration.  They are looking at several options but haven’t selected one yet.  In the mean time there are still plenty of planet candidates left to analyze from the data collected by Kepler.

Proton Rocket launches to resume
Following a review of the launch failure in July Proton Rocket launches are scheduled to resume in September.  The review concluded that key yaw angular sensors were forcible installed upside down causing the rocket to fail so quickly after launch, several recommendations have been made to the component manufacture that will not allow this to happen again.

SpaceX completed Orbit and Entry review for Dragon
SpaceX recently completed a preliminary design review of the systems that would be used to keep crews safe while in space and during re-entry to earth’s atmosphere.  During the review company engineers present NASA and industry experts with details of all the systems which were dissected to ensure nothing was missed.  This was the seventh milestone in the CCiCap initiative and SpaceX are marching towards a summer 2014 completion of all the milestones.

SpaceX Grasshopper News
This week SpaceX’s reusable test platform Grasshopper completed the first lateral divert test demonstrating that it has the ability to correct the dissent even if the vehicle is not directly above the landing pad and land in the correct spot.  These tests are all steps towards Elon Musk’s dream of having fully re-usable rockets in the future.

Commercial Launch Schedule Changes
Mission planners have switched the Orbital and SpaceX Commercial Crew launches scheduled for December 2013 and January 2014.  The original plan called for SpaceX launch three SpX-3 to go in December but due to scheduling conflicts they have elected to switch the missions.  This assumes of course that the Orbital Demo mission scheduled for late September is successful.  For SpaceX this will be the first Dragon launch using the new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket which allows a greater cargo capacity on the vehicle.

NASA Astronaut Michael Foale retires
British born Astronaut Michael Foale has retired from NASA following a 25 year career which included a US record 374 days in space and saw him fly on Space Shuttle, Soyuz and two Space Stations.  For more info on Michael check out his profile here.

And finally
Well that is all for this week, there are plenty of stories out there and I will have plenty more for next week.  In meantime here are some of the sites I visit daily to get space news.

www.spaceref.com
www.spaceflightnow.com
www.nasaspaceflight.com
www.space.com
www.spacedaily.com
www.nasa.gov

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

Weekly Space Blog 6/29

Another busy week in space, here is this weeks blog.

Saturn News
Saturn was in the news twice this week, researches have discovered the mystery of the gigantic storm circling Saturn and a image capture by Cassini shows a propeller like structure in the rings.  The researchers announced there findings based on analysis of images returned by Cassini in combination with computer models, for further information check out the fall article here.  The image below shows one of the propeller structures that have been observed several times in the rings, small moon-lets in the rings cause the material to clump together causing this effect.  For further information on these check out the NASA page here.
PIA12789

Russian Spacewalk
This week Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin performed a 6h 34m spacewalk to prepare the station for a new Russian science module due to be delivered later this year.  During the walk they replaced a fluid flow control panel on the Zarya module, installed clamps to route power cables from the US segment and retrieved several experiment from the outside of the station.  This was the third spacewalk this year at the station and the 169th overall, the next planned spacewalk from the station will be conducted in July by Chris Cassidy of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

IRIS Mission Launch
Following a one day delay due to a power outage at Vanderburg the IRIS mission was successfully launched on Thursday this week.  The spacecraft will now undergo a period of tedting before the science operations begin.  For more information on the IRIS mission check out it’s mission page here.

NASA Thruster Achieves World Record
This week NASA announced that their Advanced Ion Propulsion engine had successfully operated for more than 48,000 hours.  During the testing the engine consumed 1,918 pounds of Xenon propellant and provided an amount of total impulse that would require more than 22,000 pounds of conventional propellant.  With today’s estimated launch costs this alone offers a saving in excess of $10m USD for future missions.
You can view the NEXT ion engine in operation here.

Chinese Astronaut News
This week the three person crew completed a manual undocking and docking of there spacecraft before heading back to earth for a successful landing on Tuesday in Inner Mongolia to complete a 15 day mission in space.  At the moment the Chinese and Russian’s are the only nations with the capability to launch crews into orbit, this mission further demonstrates that the Chinese are progressing with there research as they plan a large presence in space in the future.  During the mission there were a total of nine people in orbit of the earth.  For further information check out these stories of the Undocking and Landing.

Gliese 667 planets
This week astronomers announced that after further analysis they believe there could be as many as three habitat planets in the Gliese 667 system.  They have found at least 6 planets within the system and the three that fall in the habitat zone of the star are all super-earths.  The image below shows the potential Sunset from each of the planets compared with our own sunset.
sunset_gliese667c
For further information check out the teams paper here.

Ten thousandth NEO found
This week the ten thousandth Near Earth Object was announced, asteroid 2013 MZ5 was first detected by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope on June 18.  NASA’s Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters, said that finding the 10,000 object was a significant milestone, however there are at least 10 times as many objects out there still to be discovered.  For more information on the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope check out it’s page here, and for more information on the NEO programs at NASA here.

Two Soyuz Launches
This week there were two separate Soyuz launches one from Baikonur Cosmodrome and the other from Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana.  Both launches successfully placed there payloads into orbit and increased the number of satellites by five.  The first launch from Baikonur carried the Resurs-P Earth imaging satellite, the second from Kourou carried four 03b satellites, further information on both launches can be found here.

Next JAXA HTV
The next Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) “Kounotori” could pave the way to manned flights by JAXA, each flight gives the agency additional information about the dynamics of spaceflight, with the last one and this vehicle being fitted with an observation system called “i-Ball” to record its re-entry.  The data provided by the i-Ball system will help engineers better understand the dynamics of re-entry and help design future spacecraft to survive the re-entry process.  Further details can be found here.

New Type of Matter Found
A recent publication in the journal Nature Physics announced a new type of matter found only in Neutron star’s.  Called “Nuclear Pasta” because of how the nuclei of atom’s arrange themselves due to the density of the stars.  It is believed that these patterns are also responsible for limiting the rotation speed of the star’s, of the ones observed so far they haven’t found one that has a rotation period longer than 12 seconds.  Further information can be found here.

CoRoT satellite shutdown
Further bad news this week for planet hunters around the world, the french satellite CoRoT (Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits) has been officially shutdown following a computer failure last November.  The mission lasted twice as long as originally planned and so far has found 32 confirmed planets and another 100 waiting to be confirmed.  The mission also allowed astronomers to study the stellar physics and the interior of stars.

More Surprises from Voyager One
Despite having been in space for 36 years and being 11.6 billion miles from Earth the Voyager One spacecraft is still sending back data and surprising us.  In papers published this week in the journal Science the Voyager One team provided more clarity on the region they have named the Magnetic Highway.  For more information check out the full article here.

GALEX decommissioned
This week NASA decommissioned it Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) after ten years of operation.  The spacecraft used it’s ultraviolet vision to explore hundreds of millions of galaxies.
Highlights from the mission’s decade of sky scans include:
— Discovering a gargantuan, comet-like tail behind a speeding star called Mira.
— Catching a black hole “red-handed” as it munched on a star.
— Finding giant rings of new stars around old, dead galaxies.
— Independently confirming the nature of dark energy.
— Discovering a missing link in galaxy evolution
— the teenage galaxies transitioning from young to old.
For the full details of GALEX check out the article here.

Shuttle Atlantis exhibit opens

The new Space Shuttle Atlantus exhibit opened this week at Kennedy Space Centre and offers a view of the shuttle only seen by a few astronauts when in space.  For more on the new exhibit check out it’s psge here.  http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com

space-shuttle-atlantis-bay-doors

And Finally
There is only one day left on the ARKYD Kickstarter campaign if you haven’t contributed to this yet now is your last change to be involved in this ground breaking project.  Check out the project here.

Weekly Space Blog 6/22

Lots of great news this week

Herschel ends operations

This week the Herschel team send the final commands to shutdown the spacecraft following a series of tests that were performed on the spacecraft after the primary mission finished because of the depletion of the helium coolant that cooled the primary instruments.  Since April the team have been using the spacecraft to test control techniques that can’t normally be performed in flight.

For more on Herschel check out it page here.

ATV-4 Albert Einstein Docks to Space Station

The Albert Einstein cargo ship that successfully launched on two weeks ago arrived at the Space Station last Saturday.  Following a 10 day transit to the station it automatically docked to the Russian Service module and once leak checks were completed the six crew members were able to access the vehicle to begin unloading the cargo.

New Horizons News

Following a year of analysis the New Horizon’s and NASA teams have concluded that they do not need to change the trajectory of the spacecraft as it approaches Pluto.  Scheduled to arrive in 2015 they feared that the dust around Pluto could cause damage to the spacecraft and they launched an investigation to determine if anything needed to be done.

LEGO Curiosity on the way

Lego_CuriosityLEGO announced this week that they will be releasing a model of the Mars Rover Curiosity from there CUUSOO production line.  More information on the design can be found here, I wasn’t able to find an exact launch date yet but will update on a future blog once more details are available.

NASA Announces 2013 Astronaut Class

NASA announced the latest class of Astronauts candidates this week, the eight were selected from over 6100 applications the second largest ever.  They will begin preparing for low-Earth, Asteroid and Mars missions in the future.  Half the candidates are women a first for NASA.

The eight candidates are:-

Josh A. Cassada, Ph. D., 39. 
Victor J. Glover, 37, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy. 
Tyler N. Hague (Nick), 37, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force. 
Christina M. Hammock, 34. 
Nicole Aunapu Mann, 35, Major, U.S. Marine Corps. 
Anne C. McClain, 34, Major, U.S. Army. 
Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D., 35. 
Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., 37, Major, U.S. Army.

More info can be found here.

Mars Curiosity Billion Pixel View

PIA16919-mars-billion-pixel-945This week NASA released a Billion Pixel view of Mars taken from pictures that were beamed back by Curiosity.

Click on the Image to see the full picture and use the tools to look around the environment that Curiosity is currently operating in.

ISS 3D Printer Update

The 3D Printer that is destined for the International Space Station next year passed a series of Critical Microgravity Test flights recently.  The printer which will be used on the station to test 3D printing functionality on the station will allow future missions to create parts etc that have failed.

NASA begin SLS Preliminary Design Review

This review once complete will allow the SLS design to move from concept to actual design.  The review involved analysis of the complete concept to determine if there are any problems and how to address them.  The review is expected to take several weeks to complete and is an important milestone in the road to launch.  For more information check out the new feed here.

ARKYD Kickstarter Funded

The ARKYD Kickstarter project passed the $1m goal this week with more than 12,000 funders, to celebrate Planetary Resources announced additional stretch goals with the hope of raising a total of $2m with 8 days left to go.  Check out the project here and if you haven’t yet please join this exciting project.

NASA Asteroid Grand Challenge

This week NASA announced the Asteroid Grand Challenge to utilize multiple disciplines working together to identify threats to earth from Near Earth Asteroids.  Further information can be found here.

And Finally

This week the Pegasus XL rocket that will propel NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph spacecraft, or IRIS, into orbit to study how the sun’s atmosphere is energized, was attached to the L-1011 carrier aircraft that will air drop it on 6/26.  Once released the three stage solid fuel rocket will place the spacecraft in orbit.