Showing posts from April, 2020

NASA picks SpaceX, Dynetics and Blue Origin-led team to develop Artemis moon landers

Destination: Moon 2024.
NASA has picked three companies to develop new lunar landers that will carry astronauts to the surface of the moon in 2024 and beyond.
The agency announced today (April 30) that it has awarded contracts to SpaceX, a Blue Origin-led team and Dynetics to design and build a human landing system for the Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable, long-term human presence on and around the moon by the late 2020s.
"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. 
"This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program," Bridenstine added.
The awards, which were granted under NASA's Next Sp…

'Uphill battle': SpaceX overcame obstacles on road to historic 1st crew launch

There was no guarantee that everything would work out.
Like most historic achievements, this one will be hard-won.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch its first crewed flight on May 27, sending NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the company's Crew Dragon capsule.

The mission, known as Demo-2, will mark the return of orbital human spaceflight to American soil for the first time since July 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle fleet after 30 years of service. The plan was to have private vehicles such as Crew Dragon fill the shuttle's shoes, but it was far from clear that everything would work out, said former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman.

"It was an uphill battle," said Reisman, a professor of astronautics practice at the University of Southern California who spent three months aboard the ISS in 2008 and also flew on a shuttle mission in 2010.

"If I'd had to bet" back then, he told, &quo…

SpaceX Starship SN4 passes key test, Elon Musk says

A prototype of a SpaceX ship meant to one day take humans to the moon and Mars has passed a key test.

The SpaceX Starship SN4 has completed a cryogenic proof test, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted late Sunday night.

The cryogenic pressure test is needed to prove that the starship "is able to withstand exceptionally high pressure caused by very cold fuel, which is an issue in space," according to the Brownsville Herald, a newspaper based in southern Texas.

SpaceX runs a rocket production center and test site several miles east of Brownsville near Boca Chica. The area was the site of the recent test, according to

Snowing in Texas — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2020 Previous prototypes of Starship have not had success passing the pressurized test, reported Most recently the SN3 failed the test due to a configuration mistake, according to the news outlet.

Musk's ultimate goal is to establish a…

Is the exoplanet candidate 'Proxima c' potentially habitable?

As of April 2020, the exoplanet candidate Proxima c is not considered to be potentially habitable.

Firstly, Proxima c would orbit the star at a distance of 1.5 AU, whereas the habitable zone of the star system extends from 0.02 to 0.05 AU.

Secondly, it has been estimated that Proxima c has a mass 12 times higher than Earth, and the maximum mass for a planet to be considered potentially habitable is 10 Earth masses.

Thirdly, and this also applies to the other planet in that system: Proxima b, planets orbiting active flare stars should not be considered potentially habitable (for humans), especially if those stars are red dwarfs.

This is the first possible image of the closest exoplanet to Earth, Proxima c:


U.S. Space Force to start accepting applications May 1

The Space Force has to start planning its future, said Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force next month will start accepting applications from current military service members who are interested in moving over to the new space branch. The initial window for applicants starts May 1 and only lasts for 30 days, officials said April 16 during a town hall event live streamed on Facebook.

The timeline seems fast, but it’s necessary so the Space Force can start planning its future, said Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman.

Towberman on April 3 was sworn in as the top enlisted leader of the U.S. Space Force. During the town hall forum, Towberman and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond answered questions on a range of topics, mostly on administrative and personnel issues.

Transferring to the Space Force in entirely voluntary, Raymond said. The Space Force anticipates that current airmen working as space operators or in other space-related jobs will be the …

NASA sets May 27 launch date for SpaceX commercial crew test flight

WASHINGTON — NASA announced April 17 that it has set a May 27 launch date for a SpaceX commercial crew test flight that will be the first mission to launch NASA astronauts to orbit from the United States in nearly a decade.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the launch date in a tweet, saying that NASA “will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.” The agency had previously stated it anticipated a launch in mid-to-late May, but had not given a specific date before this announcement.

The May 27 launch, which would take place at 4:32 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, will place a Crew Dragon spacecraft into orbit with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit. The spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station less than 24 hours later for what NASA calls an “extended stay” there. The exact length of the mission has yet to be determined, the agency stated.

Hurley will serve as “spacec…

NASA discovery of planet remarkably like ours gives hope for 'second Earth'

Scientists unearthed a hidden exoplanet from old Kepler Space Telescope data. NASA's now retired Kepler Space Telescope is the mission that keeps on giving. On Wednesday, NASA announced the discovery of what might be a very Earth-like exoplanet found lurking in old Kepler data.
Kepler ran out of fuel and went to sleep in 2018, but scientists are still combing through the observations it made during its epic hunt for planets beyond our own solar system.  
Kepler-1649c is located 300 light-years from Earth. NASA described it as the "most similar to Earth in size and estimated temperature" out of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by Kepler. The planet is located in its star's habitable zone, a region where it's possible for liquid water to exist. 
The fascinating exoplanet is slightly larger than Earth. It receives 75% of the amount of light we get from our own sun, which could put it in line with Earth temperatures as well. The planet was originally misidenti…

Trump wants more countries to join US policy approach to space resources, lunar mining

"This Executive Order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources," Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president, said in a statement.Trump's executive order reaffirms a decision made by Congress in 2015, which Pace noted gives American individuals and corporations "the right to engage in the commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space."A senior White House official told CNBC that the administration has seen support for this view of space resources from nations like Canada, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and even China. 
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that directs Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to seek further international support for the U.S. policy that allows organizations to collect and use resources in space.
"This Executive Order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the co…

Private companies find role in developing nuclear power for space travel

Nuclear-powered spacecraft could cut our travel time to Mars in half.
Space is about to go nuclear — at least if private companies get their way.

At the 23rd annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference (CST) in Washington, D.C., in January, a panel of nuclear technology experts and leaders in the commercial space industry spoke about developments of the technology that could propel future spacecraft faster and more efficiently than current systems can.

Nuclear technology has powered spacecraft such as NASA's Mars rovers, the Cassini mission and the two Voyagers that are currently exploring the outer reaches of our solar system. But those fuel sources rely on the passive decay of radioactive plutonium, converting heat from that process into electricity to power the spacecraft.

Instead, the CST panelists discussed Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP), a technology developed in the 1960s and '70s that relies on the splitting, or fission, of hydrogen atoms. Although fission i…

NASA and SpaceX prepare to launch astronauts from the US again

For the first time since the final space shuttle mission in 2011, astronauts will launch into space aboard an American rocket and spacecraft from American soil, according to NASA.

The agency, along with SpaceX, is eyeing a mid-to-late May launch for the manned SpaceX Demo-2 flight test from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since the last shuttle mission in July 2011, crews launching to the International Space Station have been conducted from Baikonur in Russia aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The agency is monitoring CDC guidance with regards to mission planning amid the coronavirus pandemic, they said. The launch date could be postponed. All NASA centers are currently operating with non-mission-essential work occurring remotely, which limits employee contact with the crew, according to the agency.

But for now, things are going according to plan. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are expected to be on the May flight test in SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of a…