Showing posts from November, 2017

Richard Branson’s newest space venture just got hired by the Pentagon for a test launch

The Pentagon is hiring Richard Branson to launch satellites to orbit.
His Virgin Orbit space company announced Thursday it had won its first military contract: a demonstration flight that would carry “technology demonstration satellites” for the Air Force on its LauncherOne rocket by early 2019.
For years, Branson’s Virgin Galactic has been focused on flying tourists to the edge of space where they’d experience a few minutes of weightlessness and glimpse the Earth from a distance for $250,000 a ticket.
But recently, his space venture has moved in another direction — launching small satellites, a market that many think could be large and lucrative as satellite technology continues to improve. To meet the demand, Branson founded Virgin Orbit, which would fly commercial satellites that would beam the Internet to remote parts of the world. On Thursday, the company announced the formation of a subsidiary, Vox Space, which will be dedicated to launching payloads for the Pentagon and intell…

Russian project to build moon orbiter estimated at over $33.5 million

The orbiter is to be manufactured until February 29, 2020
MOSCOW, November 17. /TASS/. The project to build the Luna-Resurs lunar orbiter, to be implemented by 2020, is estimated at almost 2 billion rubles (over $33.5 million at the current exchange rate), according to information published by the official government procurement website.

"The initial (maximum) price of the contract is 1.995 billion rubles," reads a federal procurement document.

According to the website, the project will be financed from the federal government. The main contractor, the NPO Lavochkin aerospace company, will receive an advance payment of almost 1.6 billion rubles, or 80% of the contract’s total value.

The orbiter is to be manufactured until February 29, 2020. Its weight should not exceed 2,200 kilograms.

The last Soviet lunar mission was sent in 1976 when the Luna-24 probe made a soft landing, collected soil samples and returned them to the Earth.

According to earlier reports, the lunar project…

NASA's New James Webb Space Telescope Just Got Its 1st Science Targets

NASA's next-generation large-scale space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, is set to train its eyes on the cosmos in 2019. This week, organizers revealed some of the first cosmic objects that the telescope will study.

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which manages the Webb program, announced Monday (Nov. 13) that it had selected 13 proposals for the initial round of science observations. The programs will demonstrate the Webb telescope's wide-ranging capabilities; the selected programs include observations of Jupiter, studies of remote alien planets, an examination of extremely distant galaxies, and other cosmic duties.

"I'm thrilled to see the list of astronomers' most fascinating targets for the Webb telescope, and extremely eager to see the results," John C. Mather, senior project scientist for Webb and senior astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement from NASA. "We fully expect to be surpri…

China sets out long-term space transportation roadmap including a nuclear space shuttle

The main contractor for the Chinese space programme has set out a space transportation roadmap which could massively boost capabilities and reduce costs for access to space.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) roadmap sets out a string of ambitious targets related to space technology, space science and space applications from 2017 to 2045.

By 2020 CASC will have a wide range of launch capabilities through its expendable Long March rocket families, with the low-cost Long March 8 rocket to be in action by this time, adding to the new capabilities of the Long March 5 and 7.

2025 is the marker for the successful development of a reusable space plane, initially using two stages for suborbital flight, including for tourism purposes. The debut flight for the space plane has earlier been stated as being set for 2020. Eventually the spacecraft would use combined cycle propulsion for orbital flight.

The first super heavy-lift launch vehicles, referred to as the Long M…

Breakthrough Prize Foundation studying privately-funded Enceladus mission

LUXEMBOURG CITY — The Breakthrough Prize Foundation, the organization funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, is examining the feasibility of a private mission to a moon of Saturn.

The effort, still in its early study phases, could eventually lead to a mission to the moon Enceladus. That icy moon likely has an ocean of liquid water underneath its surface, based in part on plumes emanating from its surface as seen by NASA’s Cassini mission. That has raised its prospects as a potentially habitable world.

Milner first revealed his foundation was considering such a mission during an on-stage interview at a conference in Seattle Nov. 9 organized by The Economist magazine. “We formed a little workshop around this idea,” he said. “Can we design a low-cost privately-funded mission to Enceladus, which can be launched relatively soon and that can look more thoroughly at those plumes to try to see what’s going on there?”

Such a mission, he said, would be a precursor to a possible future NASA…

Earth-like planet that could host alien life has been discovered and it’s called Ross

A planet the same size as Earth and with a similar temperature has been discovered.

Ross 128b was found orbiting a red dwarf 11 light years away from our own planet and is moving closer to us.

Scientists say its surface temperature may be ‘the closest known comfortable abode for possible life’.

Astronomers working with the European Southern Observatory’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile found that the red dwarf star Ross 128 is orbited by a low-mass ‘exoplanet’ every 9.9 days.

The Earth-sized world is expected to be temperate, with a surface temperature that may also be close to that of the Earth. Ross 128 is the ‘quietest’ nearby star to host such a temperate exoplanet.

Study co-author, Dr Nicola Astudillo-Defru, of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said: ‘This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques.
‘Only HARPS has de…

NASA's Road Back To The Moon May Be Via Bezos' Blue Origin

Nearly a year into the Trump Presidency, NASA is arguably no closer to a crewed return to the lunar surface than a decade ago. SpaceX is still focused on Mars. And Ryan Gosling is shooting a Neil Armstrong biopic.

So, for the foreseeable future, it seems as if the only way the Over-50 set will ever get to relive the glory days of the Apollo era will be with a bucket of popcorn. That is, unless Congress and NASA get serious about public/private partnerships of the sort proposed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and the company’s Blue Moon program. Blue Moon is a potentially low-cost, repeatable lunar-lander system designed to provide NASA and others with a commercial lunar cargo delivery solution.

Yet, last week Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) put out a statement that made me wonder if we would ever see new boots on the lunar regolith. Smith, Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, noted that it’s now expected that the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) coul…


While Elon Musk brainstorms how to be the first to land boots on Mars, NASA is still working away on its own plan, and it all starts at the moon.

The space agency’s Orion spacecraft won’t be shooting straight to the Red Planet. The spacecraft, which will be orbiting the moon on a test flight (sans humans) called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) in 2019, was built to go from there to asteroids to Mars and beyond. NASA scientists believe we need to do this Mars thing in phases, or else something could go disastrously wrong—and in space, nobody can hear you scream.

While other unmanned spacecraft have ventured much deeper into space, at its longest distance of 270,000 miles away from Earth (which slightly outdistances the Apollo missions), Orion will be the first crew-capable ship to fly that far. The solar-energy-powered ship will spend 26 days making a lunar round trip that includes a week spent in a lunar elliptical orbit and the four days it takes to rocket from our planet to its satell…

Closer to Explaining How NASA’s ‘Impossible’ EmDrive Works

The EmDrive propulsion system might be able to take us to the stars, but first it must be reconciled with the laws of physics.

A tentative theoretical explanation for the mysterious, "impossible" EmDrive propulsion system was published in the Journal of Applied Physical Science International in August. First proposed by British engineer Roger Shawyer, the EmDrive is an asymmetric box that looks like a truncated cone, with a standing microwave field inside that—apparently violating known physical laws—seems able to generate thrust and propel the device.

Meanwhile, China's state media claims that the country's scientists have perfected a working EmDrive prototype and are preparing to test it in space. NASA is also funding a feasibility study for an interstellar mission powered by a related exotic propulsion method.

In September 2016, propulsion researchers gathered for a select, invitation-only workshop at an isolated retreat in Estes Park, Colorado. The proceedings a…

SpaceX aims for late-December launch of Falcon Heavy

A major question for SpaceX’s end of year manifest appears to be gaining some answers as the company aims to debut its Falcon Heavy rocket in the late-December time period.  With one launch left off LC-39A before the pad’s final conversion for the new rocket occurs, SpaceX is understood to be targeting mid-December for the Static Fire of Falcon Heavy followed by a late-December, No Earlier Than 29 December, launch of the heavy lift rocket.

Falcon Heavy – a late-December debut:

The schedule for Falcon Heavy has been a fluid campaign as operations to bring SLC-40 back into operation took major priority this year following the activation and historically high use of LC-39A to ramp up and maintain SpaceX’s impressive launch cadence.

This year alone has already seen 12 launches from the SpaceX-leased pad, with two more – Zuma and Falcon Heavy – planned before year end.

Currently, all three cores for Falcon Heavy’s first stage are inside the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) outside the…