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Orbit

— Space

NASA'S MAVEN spacecraft succesfully arrives at Mars

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has successfully completed a maneuver designed to place the robotic explorer in Mars orbit. The achievement is the crowning moment in a 10-month journey through deep space, representing the culmination of millions of dollars and over a decade of planning and hard work by NASA mission operators. Read More
— Space

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft prepares for orbital insertion

Mission operators working from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are undergoing final adjustments for orbital insertion of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, due to take place September 21. Achieving a stable orbit around the Red Planet would be the culmination of a 10-month voyage, during which the robotic explorer traveled 442 million miles (711 million km) after having ridden into space in November 2013 atop an Atlas V rocket. Read More
— Space

Venus Express gets new lease on life by skimming Venusian atmosphere

Facing the alternative of a fiery death, the ESA’s Venus Express orbiter has completed a daring maneuver that extended the life of the unmanned explorer by several months. Under command from Earth, the spacecraft spent a month skimming the outer edge of the Venusian atmosphere to alter its velocity and send it into a new orbit that will keep it operating until perhaps the end of the year. Read More
— Space

Cassini set to begin its grand finale

Having returned a vast number of incredible images of Saturn, her rings and her moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is reaching the final stage of its marathon mission. As such, and with the help of over 2,000 members of the general public, mission operators have selected a fitting name for the final maneuvers of the iconic spacecraft. Read More
— Space

ESA endeavours to understand the unpredictable tumbling of space debris

As part of its Clean Space Initiative, the ESA is planning a satellite salvage mission called e.DeOrbit that would use a satellite to net space debris and remove it from low Earth orbit. To capture such debris using an autonomous system, it needs to be targeted effectively, which is difficult when the debris is tumbling unpredictably. To fine tune the design of the e.DeOrbit mission, the ESA will commission a study to shed light on why space debris tumbles the way it does. Read More
— Space

Clues to hazy exoplanet complexity revealed in our own solar system

Data collected from observations recorded by NASA's Cassini mission has been used to propose ways to better understand the atmospheres of exoplanets. By studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite, Titan, scientists have shown how spectra are subtly altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, thereby giving a greater insight into interpreting the spectral readings of the atmosphere of these distant worlds. Read More
— Space

Could a space-based solar farm become a reality by 2040?

Space-based solar power seems like an idea from a Star Trek script, but given the uncertain future of its power generation industry, Japan stands to gain as much as anyone by exploring this potential source of renewable energy. The disaster at Fukushima, limited access to fossil fuels and advances in technology has, at least in the eyes of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), added further weight to the notion of a space-based solar power system. The agency is developing a complex roadmap involving a 1 GW extraterrestrial solar farm, a microwave beam and a man-made island in the Tokyo harbor which could be used collect solar energy in space and supply power to Earth by 2040. Read More
— Space

Lockheed-Martin introduces 100 percent refund or refly program for ATLAS payloads

Lockheed-Martin (LM) has a problem. Their Atlas V orbital launch system, while very popular with the US military, at around US$225M per launch is too expensive to compete effectively for commercial missions, whose launch costs are generally about half that amount. As part of an effort to reposition their services, LM is now offering a 100 percent money-back or reflight guarantee if the launch vehicle causes mission failure. The guarantee covers the cost of the vehicle launch, but not the cost of the satellite. Read More
— Space

New ISS cameras set to provide high quality Earth views in near real time

On Jan. 27, two Russian Cosmonauts undertook a six hour spacewalk in order to install two new British-manufactured Earth imaging cameras to the Russian segment of the ISS. The initiative, announced in 2011, will allow anyone with an internet connection access to the near-live feed, which will provide higher quality results than the currently-installed standard definition cameras. Read More
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