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Launch Vehicles

CT-2 rolling out from the VAB (Photo: NASA)

Two veterans of the US space program have marked 50 years of service with in appropriately sedate style. In 1965, a pair of gigantic crawlers were built to move the Saturn V moon rockets to the launch pad. Half a century later, they are still in service and being upgraded to handle NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and other launch vehicles. To celebrate, the 6 million lb (2.7 million kg) Crawler-Transporter 2 (CT-2) made a rollout for a visitor and media day at less than one mph.  Read More

Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft in orbit, having separated from the Delta IV l...

Progress is continuing apace as NASA readies its next-generation Orion spacecraft for her maiden flight, dubbed Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), set to blast off Dec. 4 atop a Delta IV heavy launch vehicle. Once operational, Orion will be the first spacecraft built with the capacity to carry out a manned flight beyond low-Earth orbit since the Apollo era, when man first walked on the moon. NASA boasts that Orion will represent the safest and most advanced spacecraft ever created, allowing man to capture an asteroid and in time, even put a man on Mars.  Read More

A DARPA rendering of the planned XS-1, launching its second-stage rocket

It takes a lot more money and preparation to launch a rocket than to have a plane take off. That's why DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) first initiated its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The idea is that once built, the XS-1 could take off and land like a regular aircraft, but could also deliver satellite payloads into low-Earth orbit while airborne. Today, the agency announced its plans for Phase 1 of the program, which includes awarding contracts for designs of the autonomous spaceplane.  Read More

The sale includes memorabilia from the US and Soviet space programs

If you've ever wanted to own a space suit from the NASA Mercury project, or maybe a pack of gum that went to the Moon, here’s your chance. On Tuesday, Bonhams auction house is selling a bumper crop of space exploration artifacts as part of its sixth annual Space History Sale in New York. The auction will see 296 lots of memorabilia from the US and Soviet space programs go on the block, including a Mercury-era space suit.  Read More

Artist's concept for a slingatron space launcher to hurl payloads into space

People have been shooting things into space since the 1940s, but in every case this has involved using rockets. This works, but it’s incredibly expensive with the cheapest launch costs hovering around US$2,000 per pound. This is in part because almost every bit of the rocket is either destroyed or rendered unusable once it has put the payload into orbit. Reusable launch vehicles like the SpaceX Grasshopper offer one way to bring costs down, but another approach is to dump the rockets altogether and hurl payloads into orbit. That's what HyperV Technologies Corp. of Chantilly, Virginia is hoping to achieve with a “mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator” called the slingatron.  Read More

The Merlin 1D engine, being tested at the SpaceX rocket development facility

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is now a crucial step closer to getting more efficient new engines. While the launch vehicle currently uses nine of the company’s Merlin engines, the next-generation Merlin 1D achieved flight certification earlier this week.  Read More

S3's planned satellite-carrying shuttle, being carried itself on an Airbus A300

If you want to launch a satellite in the usual way – on top of a rocket – it will typically cost you at least US$50,000,000. Newly-inaugurated aerospace firm Swiss Space Systems (S3), however, claims that it will be able to put your small satellite into orbit for about 10.6 million bucks. Why so cheap? S3 is planning on flying satellites into space, using an airliner and an unmanned shuttle.  Read More

Today, SpaceX performed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle's nine Merlin en...

Private space exploration company SpaceX is currently looking towards May 7th as the rescheduled date for its Dragon space capsule to lift off from Earth, on an unmanned Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demo mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Today, the company performed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle’s nine Merlin engines. The test took place at SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and was part of a full dress rehearsal for the actual launch.  Read More

An Interorbital Systems TubeSat in low Earth orbit

Interorbital Systems (IOS), a rocket and spacecraft construction company founded in 1996, has announced the age of the Personal Satellite. For US$8,000, IOS provides the TubeSat Personal Satellite (PS) Kit, complete with launch to low Earth orbit (LEO). A TubeSat is a (very) low-cost alternative to the CubeSat - for comparison, by the time you have assembled a CubeSat and had it placed in orbit, your cost will be well north of US$100K.  Read More

Boeing will produce the Ares I crew launch vehicle's instrument unit avionics

December 22, 2007 The U.S. Vision for Space Exploration is an important step closer to being realized, with NASA awarding the Boeing Company a $265 million contract to produce the instrument unit avionics for the Ares I launch vehicle - a platform that will eventually be used for manned expeditions to the Moon and Mars.  Read More

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