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Launch Vehicles

Reaction Engines' Skylon reusable spaceplane project has been given a boost, with analysis by the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) confirming the feasibility of the SABRE engine cycle concept that lies at its heart. Read More
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has entered the reusable launcher race with its Next Generation Launch System (NGLS), also known as the Vulcan rocket. This replacement for the current generation of launch systems will incorporate a rocket engine assembly that jettisons from the first stage and is snared in mid-air by a helicopter after reentering the Earth's atmosphere Read More
March 23 marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of Gemini III - the first manned mission of the now legendary Gemini program. Following hot on the heels of the Mercury missions, and only a short time after President Kennedy's famous speech in which he announced his intent to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, Gemini was tasked with testing the technologies and techniques that would lead America to victory in the space race. Read More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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