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Showing posts from July, 2017

SpaceX schedules Falcon Heavy's maiden launch for November

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Elon Musk warns that it might not reach orbit, though.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has revealed that the company is sending its heavy lift rocket to space for the first time in November. The company was originally gunning for a summer launch, but in June, the CEO told a Twitter follower that Falcon Heavy's cores will take two to three months to reach Cape Canaveral. SpaceX will need a bit of time after they arrive to prepare the rocket.

Falcon Heavy is powered by three Falcon 9 cores, which gives it thrice the payload capacity of the smaller launch vehicle. Earlier this year, the private space corporation was thinking of trying to reland and recover its upper stage during its maiden flight. That seems off the table now, though -- in fact, Musk set expectations pretty low for the launch. At a space conference in Washington last week, he said there's a good chance that Falcon Heavy won't even reach orbit the first time it leaves the atmosphere.

The rocket will take off from NASA&…

After Delays, SpaceX and Boeing Aim to Launch Astronauts Next Year

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The race is on between the Dragon 2 and the Starliner. Back in 2014, SpaceX and Boeing both received contracts under NASA's Commercial Crew Development program to build spacecraft that could carry astronauts to the International Space Station. The program is intended to allow NASA to launch astronauts on American spacecraft again, something that hasn't happened since the last flight of the space shuttle in 2011.
The spacecraft being developed by SpaceX and Boeing—the Dragon 2 and the CST-100 Starliner, respectively—proved to be more difficult than originally anticipated. Both companies pushed back their plans for 2017 flights to 2018. Elon Musk recently said the Crew Dragon, which is what NASA calls the Dragon 2, is "way more difficult" than the cargo version of the spacecraft that is used to take supplies to the ISS. "As soon as people enter the picture, it's really a giant step up in making sure things go right," said Musk at a recent panel on the co…

SpaceX drops plans for powered Dragon landings

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX no longer plans to have the next version of its Dragon spacecraft be capable of powered landings, a move that has implications for the company’s long-term Mars plans.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, speaking at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here July 19, confirmed recent rumors that the version of the Dragon spacecraft under development for NASA’s commercial crew program will not have the ability to land on land using SuperDraco thrusters that will be incorporated into the spacecraft primarily as a launch abort system.

“It was a tough decision,” he said when asked about propulsive landing capability during a question-and-answer session. “Technically it still is, although you’d have to land it on some pretty soft landing pad because we’ve deleted the little legs that pop out of the heat shield.”

SpaceX planned to transition from splashdowns, which is how the current cargo version of the Dragon returns to Earth, to “propulsive…

SpaceX's Big New Rocket May Crash on 1st Flight, Elon Musk Says

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There's a "real good chance" the vehicle won't make it to orbit during the liftoff, Musk said Wednesday (July 19) at the 2017 International Space Station Research and Development (ISSR&D) conference in Washington, D.C. That launch is expected to take place later this year from Florida's Space Coast.

"I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest," Musk told NASA ISS program manager Kirk Shireman, who interviewed the SpaceX CEO onstage at the meeting. "Major pucker factor, really; that's, like, the only way to describe it."

The two-stage Falcon Heavy is based on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which has been ferrying payloads to space since 2010. The Heavy's first stage consists of two Falcon 9 first stages strapped to a central "core," which is itself a modified Falcon 9 booster.

Like the Falcon 9, the Heavy is designed to be reusable.

When…

4 private spaceflight companies you need to know about

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Almost any space nerd will tell you that the future of the space industry hinges upon private spaceflight.

Of course, almost anyone with an interest in tech and space knows about Elon Musk's SpaceX or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, two heavy-hitters in the commercial spaceflight industry.

But what about the other, less known, less accomplished, yet still important companies out there hoping to leave their marks on spaceflight?

Here are a few of the space companies you should be keeping a close eye on in the future.

Moon Express

What do they want to do? In short, Moon Express wants to mine the moon.

The company, which has been around since 2010, just unveiled its plan to launch a mission to the moon by 2020 that will harvest material from the moon and bring it back to Earth.

Before that mission, however, Moon Express plans to launch multiple other missions to the lunar surface in preparation for its prospecting future.

The company's Lunar Scout mission is designed, in part, to com…

SPACE WARNING: Death star heading towards Earth will end life with hail of space rocks

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A GIANT death star is heading Earth’s way which could wipe out life on the planet, scientists have warned.

The star known as HIP 85605 is one of 14 stars that are heading towards Earth, and experts have given it a 90 per cent chance of reaching the edge of our solar system.

Once it is there in what is known as the Oort cloud, which is full of of asteroids, it could fling all of the space rocks our way, wiping out life on Earth.

Swinburn University astrophysicist Alan Duffy told Australia's Herald Sun: "Objects hardly ever meet in space — the distances are so huge — but the gravitational influence of a star is enormous, even something a lightyear away can rattle the loosely held Oort Cloud objects.

“But there's no doubt that nearby stars in the past have nudged Oort objects into falling towards the inner solar system.”

The study author, Dr Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), said stars have already had a huge impact on Earth.
He wrote on hi…

The Purpose of going to Mars..

House spending bill increases NASA planetary science, cuts NOAA weather satellite program

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A fiscal year 2018 spending bill that will be marked up by the House Appropriations Committee July 13 includes record funding levels for NASA’s planetary science program, but severely cuts a NOAA weather satellite program.

The committee released July 12 the report accompanying the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which its CJS subcommittee approved on a voice vote June 29. At that time, the committee had released only a draft of the bill, with limited details about how the nearly $19.9 billion provided to NASA would be allocated.

In NASA’s science account, planetary science emerges as a big winner, with the report allocating $2.12 billion, a record level. That amount is $191 million above the White House request and $275 million above what Congress provided in 2017.

Some of that additional funding will go to missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water that could sustain life. It provides $495 million for both the E…

Moon Express reveals plans for private exploration of the moon

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Private company Moon Express has announced via its website its plans for exploring the moon—plans that include sending three craft to the moon over the next three years. Officials with the company have also been speaking with the press regarding their ambitions.

As noted on the website, to date, just three entities have sent working craft to the surface of the moon, all of them big governmental operations (U.S., U.S.S.R. and China). The aim of the team at Moon Express is to change that by giving some degree of moon access to non-governmental people. To that end, the company has three missions planned. The first involves sending a probe to the moon's surface; the second will seek to set a working research apparatus on the moon's south pole. The third and most ambitious mission will involve sending a vehicle to the surface of the moon that will be capable of mining moon dust and then bringing it back to Earth. Officials at Moon Express are promising to make samples of moon dust…

BUZZ ALDRIN OPENS FLORIDA INSTITUTE DEDICATED TO COLONIZING MARS

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The race to reach Mars is heating up with Buzz Aldrin launching the new Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, whose primary goal is to encourage research that leads to the future settlement of Mars. The institute will be located at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), where Aldrin will join the faculty as a Research Professor of Aeronautics and assume the role of Senior Faculty Advisor for the Institute.
The Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut is no stranger to Mars. Shortly after his retirement from NASA and the Air Force, Aldrin began crafting a master plan to reach the red planet. His original plan called for the use of the Aldrin Mars Cycler, a spacecraft system that would provide regular flights between Earth and Mars. Aldrin has refined his ideas over the years and holds three patents related to space flight. He now brings his knowledge and experience to FIT, which will promote his Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars concept. This proposal calls for progressively challenging missions starti…

A Plasma Rocket Engine May Get Us To Mars In 40 Days (Elon Musk, Are You Listening?)

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Born the son of Chinese and Costa Rican parents and with just $50 in his pocket, Franklin Chang Diaz came to the U.S. to do his undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut and later, his graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time, the 18-year-old had no idea that he would ever fly in space, let alone set a world mark for it. He is now co-record holder for the number of visits to the International Space Station -- seven Space Shuttle flights from 1986 to 2002 -- tied with Jerry Ross.

If that isn't enough Chang Diaz, retired from NASA since 2005, works at his Houston, TX-based Ad Astra Rocket Co. developing a revolutionary plasma engine. In his new book, "To Mars and Beyond, Fast" (Springer Books, June 2017, co-written with Erik Seedhouse) Chang Diaz discusses the high concept in layman's terms. Theoretically, the engine could cut time for manned missions to Mars to as little as 39 days versus the eight months it would take usin…

Pence Calls for Return to the Moon, Boots on Mars

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The Trump administration will seek a heavier emphasis on human-spaceflight efforts, including crewed missions to the moon and Mars, Vice President Mike Pence said today (July 6).

During a 25-minute speech at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) here on Florida's Space Coast, Pence told the 700-plus members of the crowd that the United States is "at the dawn of a new era of space exploration," and called for a return to the moon and "American boots on the face of Mars." He also said the United States will maintain a presence in low-Earth orbit.

Pence — standing on a flag-draped podium in KSC's cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building — offered no time frame or budget for the expeditions, but said partnerships with commercial companies are key. He repeatedly called for a "re-establishment" of American leadership in space and made no mention of ongoing or future international partnerships or collaborations, such as the International Space Station, a $10…