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Space

— Space

New gamma-ray spectroscope would reveal what lies within for asteroid miners

Asteroid mining is a potential trillion-dollar industry, but before any prospectors start fitting their mules of spacesuits, surveying is going to be more important than extraction. To help find out if its worth going to a particular asteroid, scientists from Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and the Planetary Science Institute are developing a new gamma-ray spectroscope that's capable of scanning asteroids, moons, and other airless bodies for gold, platinum, rare earths, and other valuable minerals.

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— Space

First commercial launch for Japan's H-IIA rocket platform

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced that the Telesat Telstar 12 VANTAGE satellite today made a successful launch from the Yoshinobu launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center. The broadcast and telecommunication satellite lifted off at 3:50 pm JST atop the upgraded H-IIA Launch vehicle No. 29 (H-IIA F29). The launch was the first using the H-IIA upgraded second stage and the first commercial launch for the platform.

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Blue Origin's New Shepard makes historic touch down

In April, Blue Origin, the aerospace company established by Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted the first test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle. While the launch was a success, the propulsion module was unable to be recovered as planned due to a loss of pressure in the hydraulic system on descent. But sticking to the old adage of, if you don't first succeed, try, try again, Blue Origin has now successfully launched and landed a re-usable rocket designed to take paying customers on a suborbital flight to the edge of space.

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— Space

NASA orders first manned Dragon mission

NASA has ordered the first mission by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. This is the second mission planned with a private company under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, which guarantees at least four such orders with two companies. The launch is scheduled for late 2017.

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— Space

First images ever taken of a planet being formed, 450 light-years from Earth

Of the many new exoplanets discovered over the past two decades, all have been identified as established, older planets. Some with incredible winds raging across their surfaceand others that may be able to support life because of their position in the habitable zone, but none have been acknowledged as newly-forming protoplanets. Now scientists working at the Keck observatory have spied just such a planet in the constellation of Taurus, some 450 light-years from Earth, that is only just beginning its life, collecting matter and spinning into a brand new world.

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