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.

Weekly Space Blog 6/15

This week SpaceX sign military agreement, Chinese Astronauts, Chris Hadfield, Opportunity and Kepler keep giving, and much more.

SpaceX

This week SpaceX signed a framework agreement for potential Military launches in the future.  Under the agreement the air force will evaluate the Falcon v1.1 rocket over at least three launches as well as all the processes, procedures etc involved in create the vehicles.  Once the evaluation period is complete SpaceX may have the chance to compete for future launches.

Chinese Launch and Docking

On Tuesday this week three Chinese Astronauts successfully launched to Orbit aboard a Long March 2F rocket, once in orbit the spacecraft made it’s way to the Tiangong 1 space station arriving on Thursday.  Following a successful automated docking the three Astronauts made there way into the station to begin 15 days of work.  During their stay at the station they will perform a manual undock and redock as well as numerous scientific experiments before heading back to earth.

Opportunity News

This week the Mars Opportunity Rover team announced that they believe they have found clay minerals in a rock recently examined by the rover.  The team explained that their presence is an indication that the rock had been altered by long term exposure to water.  Although they have found indications of water since arriving on the planet they explained that this was different because it indicated a neutral pH balance where as previous examples had higher pH balances.

The Rover has been operating on Mars for 9+ years, over 35 times longer than originally designed and recently broke the US distance record on another planetary object.

Image

In this panorama, Solander Point is the near peak on the left of the horizon. It is more than a kilometre away from Opportunity’s current position and the rover would hope to arrive by August

More Kepler planet candidate announced

The Kepler team announced another 503 planet candidates this week, some which may be the right size and distance from their star to support life.

The Kepler team continue to analyze the vast amounts of data they have already received from the four+ years of operations.

The Kepler spacecraft is currently operating in a Point Rest State due to the failure of a second gyroscope that is used to stabilize the craft, and a team has been formed to determine what course of action can be taken to restore some if not all the scientific operations of the Vehicle.

Chris Hadfield announces resignation

This week Chris Hadfield announced his resignation from the Canadian Space Agency after 21 years at the agency.  Chris who recently returned from a six month mission to the space station the last part which was served as Commander, became well known for the amazing pictures that he tweeted from space.

Chris and his family have spent many years in Houston working with NASA and will be returning to his native Canada to enjoy his retirement.

Planetary Resources announce stretch goal

Planetary Resources announced via their Kickstarter ARKYD page an ambitious stretch goal for the campaign.  If they are able to raise $2 million by the 30th June they then will add ExoPlanet detection capabilities to the spacecraft.  Check out the project here.

And Finally

That’s all for this week, will be plenty more next week.

Touch Tomorrow festival

Yesterday we visited Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for the Touch Tomorrow festival, there were lots of activities for the kids to do and some fun exhibits for everyone to learn about advances in robotics. The event sponsored by NASA was an opportunity for people to learn about the Space Launch System (SLS), visit a Moon Landscape and see various robots competing in the NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge, check out this video of the event. NASA setup a number of stamp stations around the campus and kids could win a prize if they collected 4 or more stamps.

There were various exhibits setup around the campus of WPI and in various buildings, as we walked around the site there were opportunities to learn by building or creating various items including Dome Structures made of Gum Drops and Toothpicks, Paper airplanes, Slime, etc. There were a number of different robotic technologies on display some created by WPI staff and students others created by NASA. A fall size model of Curiosity was on display in the main courtyard, it was amazing to see just how big it is and brought home to me just how challenging it was to land on the surface of mars.

The highlight of the day for me was getting the opportunity to hear Astronaut Captain Stephen G. Bowen, veteran of three spaceflights on the shuttle and seven spacewalks. Stephen showed two video’s during his talk from STS-132 and STS-133 as well as talked about his work on the space station. During the talk he told us that during one of his spacewalks Houston told him to hold for a moment as they needed to assess something, he knew it would take a while before they got back to him so had time to just look down at the Earth below. At one point he showed a picture with four astronauts two who were holding coffee pouches which had Yesterday’s Coffee and Today’s Coffee written on them, he then went on to explain how they recycle ALL the water on the station which draw a number of Eww’s from the crowd. During the video’s we got to see the lighter side of the work the Astronauts do as they played games on the station/shuttle and enjoyed meals together. The question is did they ever find all those skittles that were floating around?

After his talk Stephen answered several questions from the crowd, including how did it feel to launch on the shuttle, he wasn’t really able to describe it except to say that you feel a lot of pressure as you go up, almost three G’s and then are suddenly weightless. However he did say the only way to really understand it was to experiencing it yourself.

This week we have a lot of news

This week we have a lot of news related to Space, enjoy.
SpaceX Rocket Test
This week SpaceX CEO tweeted that they had tested fired their most powerful Rocket yet, with 1.3m lbs.
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Here is a copy of the image, looking forward to seeing this vehicle in flight.
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Boeing Marching on with CCiCap milestones
This week Boeing announced that it has completed another two milestones under their CCiCap agreement with NASA.  These two milestone bring the reality of Human Space flight for US closer with the completion of the wind tunnel tests on a scale model of the combined CST-100 and Atlas V rocket that will launch it.  The second milestone related to the propellant plumbing changes needed to support the two engine Centaur stage that will be used, all previous Atlas V flights have used a single engine Centaur.
Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX are all competing to bring Manned Space Flights to the International Space Station and LEO back to US soil.
In related news Sierra Nevada announced this week they they have successfully started the main testing for the Hybrid Rocket motor that will be used on the DreamChaser vehicle.
3D Printing in Space
There have been a number of exciting announcements about 3D printing recently, NASA announced they were funding a 3D food printer with the first focus on pizza.  This week NASA and Made in Space, Inc announced an agreement to fly a 3D printer to the space station next year to being testing the production of items.
3D printing techniques offer a number of opportunities to improve the cost of manufacturing and reduce the payload required.  Deep Space Industries and The Mars Foundation plan to use materials found in space to supply 3D printers that would allow in-situ manufacturing of parts, these could be used to build structures or even spacecraft and wouldn’t have the same restrains that we have on earth to do Payload mass limits on rockets.
ATV-4 (Albert Einstein) Launched
Following the successful launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket the next ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle is currently on it’s way to the ISS.  Following a 10 day journey to the station it will dock and the cargo transfers will begin.  The ATV is the largest cargo vehicle available to the ISS with a capacity three times that of Progress and twice of the Dragon, included in the vehicle is fuel, air and water as well as the cargo.
Kepler keeps giving
While the Kepler spacecraft may not be able to continue it’s science mission (they haven’t given up on it yet and are planning ways to compensate for the recent failure), the science data that has already been received from the vehicle will keep scientist busy for years to come as they confirm the planet candidates.  <<ADD KEPLER STATS HERE>>
ARKYD Kickstarter Update
As of writing the Planetary Resources ARKYD Kickstarter project has raised more than $750,000 of the $1,000,000 needed to fund the project.  With more than 20 days remaining it is looking increasingly likely that they will exceed the required amount.  For the latest updates on the campaign check out the Kickstarter page here.
Curiosity Mars Rover Update
During this weeks Rover update teleconference NASA announced that the second drill investigation was complete and they were now heading towards Mount Sharp.  When asked how long it would take to arrive they stated that it would depend on what they found on the way and if it was worth stopping to investigate.   It could take as much as a year to arrive at Mount Sharp.  The Rover’s power supply is good for many years to come therefore they are going to take there time and do the science as they find the need.  Full details of the announcement including additional pictures are available here.
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Orion Update
After venting my frustration with the SLS/Orion program last week I thought it was only right to pass on the news that the Orion Capsule had completed stress tests this week that replicate the stresses that would be experienced during an actual mission.  The fixes they made to the designed after the cracks appeared before worked successfully and the vehicle passed all the tests.
And Finally
Today my family and I will be heading to Worchester to visit WPI for the Touch Tomorrow festival, this will be an opportunity for us to meet a NASA Astronaut and see some of the latest developments in Robotics.