Week in Space 12/31-1/5

As we start 2019 we are launching a new weekly summary of the activities that happened or relate to space.

New Horizons flies by Ultima Thule

On New Years eve the New Horizons spacecraft flew past the asteroid 2014-MU69 which is being referred to as Ultima Thule. The asteroid which is 4+ billion miles away is the the area of the Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt and is the further ever object a spacecraft has visited to date.

Travelling at more than 32,000 mph the spacecraft began flyby operations a couple of days before closest flyby which occured on 1st Jan. Due to the distant it took 6 plus hours for the first data to be received on Earth which included the first images and also spacecraft health data that indicates that the data recorders are full indicating a successful flyby.

For images and more data visit the spacecraft web site here.

OSIRIS-REx Orbit’s Asteroid Bennu

While most of the focus on New Years eve was on celebrating and New Horizons another spacecraft was also performing maneuvers in space as it fired it’s engine to go into orbit of Asteroid Bennu.

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx which was launched in September 2016 traveled to the Asteroid arriving in early December, since then it has been flying in formation with the Asteroid performing surveys.

For images and more data visit the spacecraft web site here.

China Lands on the Moon

China successfully landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the moon making them the first nation to do so. Coming off their busiest year in rocket launches China has started 2019 with the successful landing on the far side of the moon with there lander Chang’e 4, aboard the lander is a rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2.

Once on the surface the rover is successful deployed and has already started to explore the environment.

For images and more data check out this following site.

SpaceX rolls Crewed Dragon to Launch Pad

This week SpaceX rolled the first Crewed Dragon to Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center for a dry-run rehearsal and fit check. This was the first time since the last shuttle STS-135 in 2011 a crewed vehicle has been vertical at LC-39A.

While the launch date for the first demo flight (DM-1) is currently in flux due to the government shutdown it is expected to happen late Jan or early Feb this year.

Images of the vehicle on the pad can be found here.

SpaceX building Star Ship hopper in Texas

Meanwhile at their new launch complex in Boca Chica Village, Texas SpaceX are busy building the first of their Star Ship hopper vehicles which will be used to test the technology they are planning to use for missions eventually to Mars and beyond.

The design of these vehicles has changed several times over the time it was originally announced however now it seems we are closer to the final version with actual hardware appearing.

According to Elon Musk we can expect to see flights in 4-8 weeks, however, as with most estimates from Elon it may be longer. It looks like spring/summer is going to be very exciting.

For images check our these twitter accounts Cowboy Dan and Austin Barnard

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