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Space

NASA taps Aerojet Rocketdyne for new space propulsion system

In anticipation of future deep-space missions, NASA has awarded a US$67 million, 36-month contract to Redmond, Washington-based Aerojet Rocketdyne to design and develop an Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS). Based on previous ion thrusters like prototype NEXT and the Dawn mission to the asteroid Ceres, the new propulsion system could used to supply a future manned Mars mission.Read More

Physics

Researcher's experimental ion drive outperforms NASA's HiPEP engine

It seems as if the age of the bench-top breakthrough in rocket science is not a thing of the past. Dr Patrick Neumann of the University of Sydney has developed a new ion drive as part of his PhD thesis that is claimed to outperform the best one devised by NASA. According to Neumann, his new drive, which is still in the experimental stage, is more efficient than the latest High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) ion engine and holds the promise of "Mars and back on a tank of fuel."Read More

Space

Hall ion thrusters to fly on X-37B spaceplane

The US Air Force's most public secret, the X-37B unmanned spaceplane, is now a little less top secret. The Air Force has revealed that when the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) 4 mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral AFB on May 20, it will be carrying a Hall thruster as part of an experiment to improve the design for use on Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) military communications spacecraft.Read More

Space

Dawn orbits dwarf planet Ceres

NASA's Dawn spacecraft added another trophy today to the conquest of space as it went into orbit around Ceres. According to the space agency, the unmanned probe arrived at about 4:39 am PST and is currently circling the dwarf planet at an altitude of about 38,000 miles (61,000 km) – making it not only the first spacecraft to reach a dwarf planet, but also the first to orbit two extraterrestrial bodies.Read More

Space

First satellites with all-electric propulsion call home

The launch of two new communications satellites may not seem like news these days, but it is when they're the first satellites with all-electric propulsion. Boeing announced that the two 702SP small platform satellites, called ABS-3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B, that launched on Sunday evening are sending back signals to mission control as they power towards geosynchronous orbit under ion drive.Read More

Space

Dawn begins Ceres approach for orbital rendezvous

Like the end of a very long and eventful road trip, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has its main goal in sight. The space agency says that the unmanned probe has emerged from behind the Sun as it uses its ion propulsion to catch up with the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt and that mission control was able to re-establish contact. The craft has received instructions for executing a series of maneuvers that will take it on its final approach phase, which will end with it going into orbit around Ceres.Read More

Space

NASA seeks proposals for deep space missions

NASA is preparing to launch its Orion spacecraft in December and its Space Launch System (SLS) is scheduled to fly by 2018. However, impressive as this is, more is needed if buyer's regret isn't to set in. To avoid this, the space agency is asking for proposals to develop new technologies to send astronauts to the asteroids and Mars using "sustainable, evolvable, multi-use space capabilities."Read More

Space

NASA's Dawn spacecraft recovers after two malfunctions

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has recovered from an unexpected phenomenon that resulted in the robotic explorer going into safe mode on September 11, mirroring a similar event that affected the spacecraft three years ago as it approached the protoplanet Vesta. Dawn was launched in September 2007 atop a Delta II-Heavy rocket with a mission to explore Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Read More

Space

NASA Asteroid Grand Challenge hits the soggy and uncertain road running

On June 18, the NASA Asteroid Grand Challenge was announced to a flood of media inattention. This was probably to be expected, as NASA actually said very little about it. Maybe so as to not attract the ire of forces in the US Congress that are trying to shut down the largest portion of this Grand Challenge; namely the capture and relocation of a seven-meter (23 ft) asteroid to a stable lunar orbit for study and as a practice site for asteroid exploration and exploitation. We've dug up the formal Request for Information (RFI) associated with the Grand Challenge, which gives a better idea of where NASA wants to put its money.Read More

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