Buzz Aldrin

DSC_0057Today I had the opportunity to meet with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin as part of my role with The Mars Foundation.

Buzz is truly a unique character during out time together he had to do a phone interview with a South Dakota radio station which was interesting to listen to.  He discussed many of his ideas for Mars transportation including the Aldrin Mars Cycler plan, utilizing the moon Phobos before landing on Mars, how to utilize a Mars Lander even for Earth return, and many other ideas.

We had the opportunity to talk about In-situ Resource Utilization and how that could be utilized to produce fuel, oxygen and materials that could be used in 3D Printing applications.  He also shared with us a plan to develop a series of modules that would initially be used as a moon base but longer term would also be usable on Mars.

During the four plus hours we spent with Buzz it was clear that he is very passionate about sending Humans beyond Low Earth Orbit and is very active in trying to involve as many nations as possible working together and including commercial entities where possible to build the various components that would be needed to achieve this vision.

It was truly an honor to spend time with a man who has really gone where no-one had been before and even all these years later very few have been.

The Little Rover that Could continues to impress

Opportunity Rover's Full Marathon-Length Traverse
Opportunity Rover’s Full Marathon-Length Traverse

Eleven years ago the Mars Opportunity Rover landed on the surface of the planet for a planned 90 sol (Mars day) mission, nearly 4000 sols later the rover is still operating.  This week it achieved a another significant milestone becoming the first rover to complete the equivalent of a marathon driving across the surface of the planet.  A milestone that may be hard to beat until Humans are working on the surface of the planet.

Unfortunately the future for the rover is unknown for a couple of reasons, the primary being we just don’t know how much longer it can last it has already operated for 44 times as long as designed and has recently had a software patch to get around a problem with the flash memory.

The other reason the future is in doubt is the 2016 NASA budget doesn’t include funding to continue the operations of the rover. While this was also the case in the 2015 budget congress added funding back so we can be hopeful that they will do the same again, however there is no guarantee.

So how has it lasted this long? There are a couple of answers to this, the first being that it is solar powered so as long as the hardware survives and the solar panels can receive sunlight it should be able to operate. Here is where Mars itself has helped the rover, over the 11 years of operation the power from the solar panels has dropped as dust accumulated on them and then been boosted again when a dust devil (add link) cleans the panels.

Another obverse answer is the rover was well designed, while the initial mission was for 90 sols the designers ensured the rover was capable of operating longer, personally I don’t know if they ever expected it to operate this long but it is a testament to good design and engineering that it has.

Why continue to fund it? Again there are a couple of answers to this, first it is still returning valuable data, there is no other vehicle in that region of Mars and everything it finds helps us to better understand the planet.

Second the longer it operates the more we learn about long distance remote operations of vehicles, unfortunately the older it gets the more issues are likely to occur, as these happen we will learn to adapt the vehicle to handle these issues until the time comes when it is not possible to do that any longer. When that happens the Rover will have completed an extraordinary mission and set some records that will be hard to beat.

To learn more about this amazing vehicle and see the numerous images it has returned on Mars check out the mission page.

Is NASA out of the Space Business?

It is now 2015 and in July it would have been four years since an American Spacecraft launched a crew into space. I have heard many people say that NASA is no longer in the space business because of this.

In this article we will explore not only the missions that are currently operating in space, but also the activities that NASA and it’s partners are engaged in currently that will not only bring manned space flight back to US soil but will bring multiple options for launches to the table.

Current Missions in Space

International Space Station (ISS) – We will start with the biggest mission currently operating in space, the ISS which is located in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) has been permanently occupied for 5200+ days and counting (since 2nd November 2000).

For the majority of the time there are six crew members on board at the same time, when the space shuttle was flying this could increase to thirteen. At present the crews travel to the station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft which remains docked to the station while they are on board. Occasionally the crew will step outside the spacecraft to perform spacewalks to maintain the spacecraft and change out experiments etc.

The station is expected to operate until at least 2024 and may be longer depending on the hardware. In 2017/18 the crew complement is expected to increase to seven as new crew transportation options become available (see later).

At present NASA has two US commercial companies providing cargo services to the ISS, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX with another round of awards coming soon.

Earth Observation Missions – NASA currently has 18 satellites in space observing our own planet, plus two more systems on the ISS. The image below shows all the missions currently operating.

EarthSat_HD

Sun Observation Missions – NASA currently has XXX satellites either directly observing the Sun or observing the effects the Sun has on the solar system.

Mars Exploration Missions – NASA currently has three satellites and two rovers exploring Mars with another lander and rover in the works.

Mercury – The Messenger spacecraft has been exploring Mercury since 2011.

Jupiter – The Juno spacecraft is currently on route to Jupiter and is scheduled to arrive in 2016.

Saturn – The Cassini spacecraft which was launched in 1997 and has been in orbit of Saturn since 2004 continues to return a wealth of information about Saturn and it’s moons.

Pluto – The New Horizons spacecraft is currently racing to a July 2015 flyby of Pluto and will then continue onto another distance world even further away.  The primary science mission for the flyby has started and will continue throughout the flyby.  This will be the closest ever view of the planetary system.

And Beyond – The Dawn spacecraft is currently approaching Ceres and continues to return amazing views of the distance dwarf planet.  The Voyager spacecraft are the further human made objects and continue to move further away.  There is still some debate as to whether they have actually left our Solar System yet as the boundary isn’t fully known yet.  The Hubble Space Telescope has been taking amazing images since 1990 changes our view on the Universe.

NASA’s Future Plans

Commercial Crew Program – NASA has award Boeing and SpaceX contracts to develop the ability to launch crew to the ISS. With at least two actual flights for each company under the contract. The first missions are expected in 2017, once the two vehicles are online and able to deliver crew to the ISS NASA plans to increase the crew complement to seven to allow more experiments to be performed.

In addition to these there is also Sierra Nevada who despite losing out on a contract have been working on there Dream Chaser spacecraft and have vowed to continue development.

Space Launch System (SLS) – NASA is also busy building it’s own rocket and spacecraft which is designed to take crew further into space than ever before. The first launch of the spacecraft happened late last year without a crew to verify the design, the lessons learnt from this mission will be applied to future versions of the spacecraft. The first flight of the SLS is expected in 2018 although the date has slipped several times so only time will tell, this will also be an un-crewed mission with the first crewed mission expected some time in the early 2020’s.

NASA are also working on an Asteroid Redirect Mission which will allow a crew to explore the surface of an asteroid by capturing it and moving it into a Sis-Lunar orbit. This will be a two phase mission with a spacecraft tasked with moving the asteroid (or part of one), and then the second mission the crew travelling to the redirected asteroid to explore it.

As of this article a final decision on the first phase of the mission had not been announced.

Mars – NASA continues to explore Mars with a lander (InSight) planned for launch in 2016 and another Curiosity sized rover to launch in 2020.

Asteroid – The OSIRIS-REx mission will visit asteroid Bennu in 2018 to retrieve samples to be returned to Earth.

Europa – In the recently released NASA FY 2016 budget initial plans were including for a mission for Europa.

Beyond – The James Webb Space Telescope currently scheduled to launch in 2018 will significantly change our view on the Universe.

Summary

While at present the US doesn’t have the ability to launched crewed missions into space and have been reliant on the Russians it is clear that this will change reasonably soon with the potential of having three or more launch options.

In addition it is very clear that NASA is far from out of the Space Business and in fact is way ahead of any other nation in how far into the Solar System (and beyond) they have traveled.  We are still the only country to successfully land on Mars, although it does look like the Beagle 2 spacecraft did land but failed to deploy correctly.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission successfully insert into Orbit

Image: Indian Space Research Organization
Image: Indian Space Research Organization

Today India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft arrived at Mars and was successfully placed into orbit.  Launched 5th November, 13 days before NASA’s Maven the spacecraft, it took a slightly different route to Mars resulting in it arriving three days after MAVEN.  This is the first spacecraft from India to travel this far from Earth and it performed it’s orbit insertion as planned and is now in orbit of Mars.

India are only the fourth entity to place an craft into orbit of Mars following NASA, ESA and Soviet Union.  To add to the achieve they are the only one two achieve orbit on the very first attempt.

Image: Indian Space Research Organization
Spacecraft Layout – Image: Indian Space Research Organization

The MOM spacecraft is carrying the following instruments: –

  • Lyman Alpha Photometer – LAP
  • Martian Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer – MENCA
  • Mars Color Camera – MCC
  • Methane Sensor for Mars – MSM
  • Thermal Infrared Imaging System – TIS

For more information on MOM check out its mission page here.

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft reaches Mars

Following a ten month, 442 million miles journey NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) successfully entered into orbit of Mars this evening.  The orbit insertion maneuver began with six thruster engines firing briefly to damp out deviations in pointing. Then, the six main engines quickly ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be captured in an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.

2014-09-21_114613

MAVEN will now spend 6 weeks being commissioned before it begins it primary science mission.

The following instruments are being carried by MAVEN.

MAVEN_Instruments_Labeled_v2

  • Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) – measures the composition and isotopes of thermal neutrals and ions.
  • Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) – is a part of the Remote Sensing (RS) Package and measures global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere via remote sensing.
  • Magnetometer (MAG) – measures interplanetary solar wind and ionosphere magnetic fields
  • Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) – measures solar wind and ionosphere electrons
  • SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) – measures thermal ions to moderate-energy escaping ions
  • Langmuir Probe and Waves antenna (LPW) – determines ionosphere properties and wave heating of escaping ions and solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) input to atmosphere
  • Solar Energetic Particles (SEP) – determines the impact of SEPs on the upper atmosphere
  • Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA) – measures solar wind and magnetosheath ion density and velocity

 

Exciting times in Space

A lot has happened in Space or related to Space recently and the future is looking very bright.

Below is a summary of some of the recent news and upcoming events.

SpaceX and Boeing awarded CCtCap contracts – We now have two companies contracted to build manned spacecraft to deliver crew to the ISS.  Currently only two other countries have the ability to do this.  See my full article on the awards here.

ULA and Blue Origin announce BE-4 engine – Following pressure from various sources ULA have announced they are going to partner with Blue Origin to build the engine which will allow them to move away from the Russian RD-180 engine for Atlas.  Full article include specs can be found here.

Mars Orbiters arriving soon – This Sunday NASA’s Mars Maven orbiter will be arriving at the planet and next Wednesday India’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft is also expected to arrive.  They will join three other orbiters currently at Mars and the two active Rovers on the surface.

ESA Rosetta Lander Philae has a landing site – The European Space Agency has announced the landing site for Philae which is part of the Rosetta mission.  This will be the first time a vehicle has landed on the surface of a Comet.  For more information on the mission check out the excellent ESA Blog for Rosetta.

First 3D Printer heading to space – Early tomorrow morning SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission is scheduled to lift off, on board will be the first 3D printer to go into space.  The possibilities this opens up for the future are immeasurable.  For more information on the printer check out this page.  We will be posting an update tomorrow morning following the launch of CRS-4.

 

Power Generation on Mars

While researching a longer blog post, to come soon, on Mars we were struck by the question of Power Generation, from most mission previews we have seen they plan to use Nuclear generators. While there are benefits to Nuclear generators there are also problems, the biggest of which is the public’s negativity towards launching anything that mentions Nuclear.

Therefore we would like to start a discussion on looking at alternate options and determine if they are feasible and how they could be setup on Mars.

Solar Power

We know that Solar Power generation on Mars is possible as several rovers have deployed this approach, the question is what size panels or arrays would be needed to generate enough power for a base on Mars, also this couldn’t be the only option for power generation due to needed constant power which wouldn’t be possible at night or during dust storms which have been known to last long periods of time.

Wind Power

We know from observing Mars that there is wind generated, therefore it seems feasible that we could construct Wind Turbines and use these to generate power. Again the question is how many and how big would they need to be.  As with Solar Power the generation of power isn’t guaranteed and therefore this option would have to be used to supplement the main source of power.

Hydro Power

We have seen evidence of Water flows on the surface of Mars, however this would seem to be an inconsistent option depending on how much water is found and how fast it flows.  This could be a good source of power generation if a constant water flow was found which would most likely be underground and therefore require a lot of effort to setup.

Fossil Fuel Power

At the moment we don’t know enough about Mars to determine if there are fossil fuels on the planet. However that is not a reason to discount it either, as we know the planet once had water and could well have had planet life too. If that is the case there could well be fossil fuels buried underground that could be mined.

Are any of these feasible?

While this isn’t as simple question as it seems the basic answer it Yes these are feasible, however for any of them to work we would require significant infrastructure on Mars to manufacture the parts needed, as transporting them would be too costly.  Therefore it seems that for the short term Nuclear power is the only feasible way to generate the amount of power that would be needed by a Mars base.

We would value your feedback on this article, if you have suggestions or comments on this please add them below, we would be happy to incorporate the feedback and reference you in the article.

The Little Rover that could

270px-Nasa_mer_daffyThis week the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity broke the off-world driving record previously held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover. Opportunity which has been operating on the surface of Mars for 10 years, 6 months has now traveled more than 25.01 miles.

Opportunity and it’s twin Spirit were originally expected to last 90 sol’s (Martian days), and while Spirit is no longer operating both far exceeded that goal.  Spirit eventually stopped communicating after 2623 sols having traveled 4.8 miles.

123624main_dust_devil_mars_webBoth rovers are solar powered and have benefited multiple times by dust devils on the surface of Mars which have cleaned off the solar panels from the Martian dust that accumulates on them.  The image to the right show one of the dust devils captured by the rover as it passed nearby.

At this point we don’t know how long Opportunity will last, however each day it does brings us more scientific knowledge of Mars and also shows just how robust well designed robot’s can be.

Detailed maps of where the rovers have been during their time on Mars can be found here.

For more on Opportunity and to see the latest status report check out the mission page here.

 

Weekly Space News 6/27

This week in space…

SpaceX causes a stir and has another delay

Last Saturday SpaceX caused quite a stir on the Internet when they announced there would be no live web-cast of the Orbcomm OG2 launch attempt that evening.  A spokesperson for SpaceX said they had been planning to move away from web-casting because launches had become so routine.  The news of the media “snub” was soon all over social media, with a number of commentators saying the the only routine thing so far was delays.

The Saturday evening attempt was aborted due to inclement weather, they were re-scheduled for Sunday evening at which time it was announced they would have a web-cast.  However during the count down they found a which required additional analysis and scrubbed again, they then rescheduled for Tuesday but in the end needed more time.  The launch is now expected to be in July due to range maintenance work that had been delayed to allow SpaceX to launch in the first place.

We now have to ask is SpaceX moving too quickly in their manufacturing which is causing the delays due to leaks?  And how will they be able to meet there stated goal of ten more launches this year?

In separate news these delays are starting to effect Orbcomm financially as they budgeted a certain amount of revenue from the OG2 fleet and with each delay that revenue opportunity grows smaller.

Orbital Cygnus Launch delayed

To allow engineer’s more time to perform detailed analysis of the AJ26 engines on the Tauraus scheduled to launch the next Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS Orbital announced that the Orb-2 flight would not flying before July 10th.

The spacecraft was originally scheduled to launch in May but had to be rescheduled after delays to the SpaceX CRS-3 mission, then because of a AJ26 engine test failure at NASA Stennis Space Center.  Orbital elected to delay the launch to allow engineers time to investigate the failure and ensure the other engines would not be effected by the same issue.

Curiosity Rover achieves mission milestone

NASA newest rover Curiosity celebrated it’s first Martian year on the surface of the planet this year completing on of the mission milestones.  The rover has achieved much already but there is planet more to go, however engineers have noticed that the wheels have taken a lot more damage than expected, they are currently working on ways to avoid the sharp rocks that have been causing the damage.

To learn more about Curiosity, it’s achievements and future plans check out the mission page here.

Meanwhile elsewhere on Mars the Opportunity Rover still continues to operate more than 10 years after it arrived for a 90 day mission.

To learn more about Opportunity check out its mission page here.

And lets not forget that there are currently two NASA orbital spacecraft at Mars and another will be joining them in less than 100 days.  Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey are currently in orbit and MAVEN is on route.

Final ATV moves closer to launch

The final European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) named Georges Lemaître has been integrated with its Ariane 5 launcher, scheduled to launch later this summer the vehicle is due to deliver 2600kg of supplies.  The ATV vehicles utilize an automated docking process like the Progress vehicles and will attach to the Russian segment of the station.  Once unloaded the crew will store any trash they no longer need which will burn up in the atmosphere with the vehicle at the end of its mission.

Another potential habitable world found

artist-illustration-gliese-832cAstronomers announced they have found a potential habitable world in the Gliese 832 system just 16 light-years away.  The planet Gliese 832c is a “super-Earth” planet which is at least five times as massive and orbit’s the star every 36 days, however because Gliese 832 is a red-dwarf star the planet gets about as much energy from the star as we do making it a very good candidate to support liquid water on the surface.

We more and more powerful telescopes coming on line over the next decade the number of planets found is likely to increase significantly and we will also be able to learn a lot more about these planets.

CoRoT Planet Hunter goes offline

The French COnvection, ROtation & planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite which has been operational for seven years and helped discover 32 confirmed planets with at least 100 more waiting for confirmation.

For more news on the CoRoT mission check out its mission page here.

Opportunity Rover News

With its solar panels their cleanest in years, NASA’s decade-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is inspecting a section of crater-rim ridgeline chosen as a priority target due to evidence of a water-related mineral.

Orbital observations of the site by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a spectrum with the signature of aluminum bound to oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers regard that signature as a marker for a mineral called montmorillonite, which is in a class of clay minerals called smectites. Montmorillonite forms when basalt is altered under wet and slightly acidic conditions. The exposure of it extends about 800 feet (about 240 meters) north to south on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as mapped by the orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

Weekly Space Blog 6/13

Orbital ISS Launched Delayed again

The ORB-2 Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed again due to the on-going investigation into an AJ26 engine failure last month during testing.  The Antares rocket which launches the Cygnus spacecraft uses two of the AJ26 engines on the first stage to orbit.

The new No Earlier Than (NET) date is July 1st, we will prove additional news when available on the launch date/time.

SLS design change could delay first crewed mission

NASA has decided to change the version of the second stage that will be used on the EM-2 crewed mission.  Originally slated to be the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) stage that will be used on EM-1 they have now elected to use the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) stage that was originally scheduled to debut on EM-3.  Due to this and the NASA Safety Office and Astronaut Office’s requirement that the upper stage complete at least one mission before any crew and be carried on it could mean that EM-3 becomes the first crewed mission for SLS in 2023.

An alternate option may be to add an additional flight between EM-1 and EM-2 which would be used to prove the EUS therefore allowing EM-2 to be the first crewed flight, however additional funding would be needed to achieve that.  At present there are no future details as to the overall impact of the SLS schedule with primary focus on the EM-1 flight in 2017.

Progress M-21M undocks

This week the Progress M-21M spacecraft completed it’s mission to the ISS with a successful undocking and later burn up in the atmosphere.  The cargo vehicle spent 144 days at the station having delivered almost 2,400 pounds of supplies it was then loaded with trash that was no longer needed.  European Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted the picture below of the Progress burning up in the atmosphere to conclude it’s orbital mission.

ProgressM21M

Rosetta Update

The ESA Rosetta spacecraft completed two big burns this week as it entered the final phase of its approach to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after almost a decade journey.  Unlike when it a spacecraft approaches a planet Rosetta will not be able to use the gravity of the comet to get into orbit but instead will need to execute a series of burns to precisely match the orbit.

It is currently approaching at a speed of 17,000 kpd (kilometers per day) and is currently less than 300,000 kilometers away. Over the next month and half it will continue to refine the orbit.

For more information in the Rosetta mission check out the page here.

Two new exo-planets found around Kapteyn

A team of Astronomers have discovered two new planets around a nearby red dwarf star Kapteyn, which is about 13 light years away in the southern constellation of Pictor.  One of the planets Kapteyn c is considered to be too cold for life because of it’s distance from the star.  However Kapteyn b is within the habitable zone and therefore could have liquid water on the surface.  The planet is estimated to be 5 times the mass of earth, and has an orbital period of 48 days.

Boeing CST-100 News

This week Boeing showcased their CST-100 spacecraft which is one of the spacecraft that is competing for the Commercial Crew contract to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

The spacecraft will be launched by an Atlas 5 rocket and once in orbit will dock to the space station to deliver up to seven people to the station.  During the return the spacecraft will utilize airbags when it lands.

Boeing also indicated that further progress on the CST-100 would depend on them getting a contract from NASA in the CCtCap process which is currently on-going.

AAA Needed on Mars for Curiosity Rover

Rover Wheel DamageThe Mars Curiosity Rover which has been roaming around on Mars for almost a year is starting show ware and tare from the journey so far.

Originally expected to take a year to get to the base of Mt. Sharp the rover is currently half way there and clearly showing signs of damage from the un-yielding rocks as it moves over the surface.

Hmm wonder what the call out charge would be for AAA to replace the wheel, sign me up for that trip.

Russia plans Biggest Rocket since 1960s

The chief of the Federal Space Agency in Russia, Oleg Ostapenko said this week, while visiting Crimea, that they would need to build a super-heavy rocket capable of lifting between 80 to 85 tons to earth orbit in order to realize it’s lunar ambitions.

100 Million Planets may Harbor Complex Life in Milky Way

Scientists from the University of Texas have released findings based on the “first plausible assessment of complex life in the universe using empirical data.”  The findings estimate that there could be as many as 100 million planets in our galaxy that may harbor some form of complex alien life.  The article also says that our galaxy is one of approximately 500 billion in the universe.

The full article can be found here.

Author Note: The estimate of galaxies in this article seems to be very high a factor of 2.5-5 times higher than most other articles or current estimates.

Trillion Dollar Market

This week Planetary Resources released a video, explaining why they believe fuel from asteroids will create a Trillion Dollar market in the future.  Currently satellite operators have to pay for total weight of the spacecraft, including any fuel needed for the life of vehicle.

Check out the video here.

Smoke detected on ISS Tuesday, crew were not in danger

This week smoke was detected on the ISS, in the Zvezda Service Module, requiring flight controllers to initiate emergency procedures to isolate the modules ventilation system while the source of the some was identified.   The crew were never in any danger and the problem was quickly determined to be a heater that was used for water reclamation.  The heater was deactivated, a fan and filter was then setup to clear the smoke.

Kepler Candidate List updated

The NASA Kepler project updated the number of Kepler candidates and confirmed planets from 3,845 to 4,254. There are now up to one hundred potentially habitable worlds in the Kepler candidates, 30 matching the conservative definition of a potentially habitable.

HEC_All_Distance

Pluto and Charon news

Pluto has often been considered a binary planet with its largest moon Charon, it now seems that they may both also share a thin atmosphere.  While it is impossible to detect the atmosphere using ground based technology the New Horizon’s spacecraft that is current racing towards Pluto will have the ability to detect it.

We will know more in 2015 after the flyby has been completed and the data is back on earth.

Check out the fall article here.

In a separate article researchers suggest that if cracks are found in the surface of Pluto that could indicate that the interior was once warm enough to sustain an underground ocean.

Check out the full article here.

Dream Chaser News

Sierra Nevada Corporation who are building the Dream Chaser spacecraft that is competing for the contract to fly astronauts to the ISS this week announced a new partnership with Craig Technologies, a Cape Canaveral based company.  The company will be responsible for the design engineering and manufacture of Dream Chaser.

The full press release can be found here.

3D Printer heading to ISS on next SpaceX mission

The 3D Printer developed by Made In Space has passed the final certification by NASA and will now be launched to the ISS on the next SpaceX mission in August.  The printer was originally planned to launch on the SpaceX 5 mission but having completed all the milestones needed ahead of schedule they will now only need to wait until then to see the printer in action.

Once on the station a series of tests will be run to verify the ability to created printed parts in a micro-gravity environment.

The full press release can be found here.

Rumor: Google and Virgin Galactic in talks

England’s Sky News has reported that Google and Virgin Galactic have been in talks for months regarding a potential investment by Google.  While no deal has been finalized it is believe to be a part of Google plans to launch a fleet of satellites to provide Internet access to the whole planet.

The full article can be found here.

SpaceX’s Orbcomm Launch delayed again

The launch of six Orbcomm satellites on a Falcon 9 has been delayed again, originally scheduled for Thursday this week after previous delays the date was changed to Sunday after a problem was found with one of the satellites.

While the problem with the satellite appears to have been resolved Orbcomm have decided to perform additional testing to verify the issue has been fully addressed.  In order to complete the analysis the June 15 launch date is no longer achievable and they are working with SpaceX to identify a new launch date.

NASA’s Maven spacecraft is 100 days away from Mars

The NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft which launched last November is now 100 days away from arriving at Mars.

Check out the mission here.