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Orbit

Artist concept of GRAIL-B performing its lunar orbit insertion burn to join GRAIL-A in lun...

Nasa’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft are now in orbit around the Moon. Having achieved lunar orbit at 2 pm PST on New Year’s Eve, GRAIL-A was joined by GRAIL-B at 2:43 pm PST on New Year’s Day. The twin spacecraft are now in a near-polar, elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 11.5 hours. In readiness for the science phase of the mission which is due to start in March 2012, both spacecraft will undergo a series of burns to place them in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 km) and orbital period of just under two hours.  Read More

Stratolaunch Systems has announced its planned air-launch-to-orbit system, which will get ...

Seven years ago, philanthropist Paul G. Allen collaborated with aerospace expert Burt Rutan, to create SpaceShipOne – the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and winner of the Ansari X PRIZE. Now, in the post-Shuttle era, the two men have reunited to create a reusable vehicle for launching both manned and unmanned rockets into space. The project was announced in Seattle today.  Read More

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft with Vesta on the lower left and Ceres on the u...

On Saturday, NASA’a Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta, becoming the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for a year before heading for the dwarf planet Ceres. With previous multi-target missions, such as the Voyager program, considered rapid planetary flybys, Dawn is also set to become the first spacecraft to enter orbit around one extraterrestrial body before continuing under powered flight to a second.  Read More

Skylon spaceplane

After nearly 30 years of service, the Space Shuttle fleet is due to enter retirement with the last ever mission scheduled for takeoff on July 8, 2011. In its lifetime, the world’s first Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) has provided information that will prove invaluable for the next generation of spacecraft that will succeed it. One such craft is the Skylon, an unpiloted, single-stage, reusable spaceplane currently under development by UK-based Reaction Engines Ltd. (REL). The Skylon got a shot in the arm last month with the release of a technical review of Skylon carried out by the European Space Agency (ESA) that concluded there are “no impediments” that would prevent the continued development of the Skylon and its SABRE engine.  Read More

The first image of Mercury captured from orbit by MESSENGER (Image: NASA)

After reaching orbit around Mercury on March 17, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has sent back its first image of our solar system’s innermost planet. The historic image, which was captured at 5:20 am EDT (U.S.), is the first ever captured from a spacecraft in orbit and is dominated by the rayed crater named Debussy. The bottom portion of the image also shows a region of Mercury’s surface near the planet’s south pole that had not previously been seen by spacecraft.  Read More

The new Space Fence will detect space debris that could threaten the ISS and commercial an...

There are tens of thousands of pieces of space debris currently orbiting the Earth which pose a potential hazard to satellites, the International Space Station and other space hardware. Since the early 1960s, the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System, also known as the VHF or Space Fence, has been used to track orbital objects passing over America. Proposals are now being taken for the next phase of a new Space Fence that will better detect, report and track orbiting space junk as well as commercial and military satellites.  Read More

Image of the Venusian atmosphere at 60km over the south pole (yellow dot) using Visible an...

An unexpected measurement has been achieved with the Venus Express, a satellite currently studying the atmosphere of Venus. While the satellite was not fitted with instruments to directly measure atmosphere density, the scientists have discovered by measuring the drag as the Venus Express experiences air resistance that the atmosphere is 60 percent thinner than expected. This "working on the fly" approach could allow the scientists to extend the life of the craft allowing them to collect more data.  Read More

The Commercial Space Station In Section

Out of financial necessity, Russia was one of the innovators when it came to the burgeoning field of space tourism, with American businessman and former JPL scientist Dennis Tito becoming the first space tourist in mid-2001 when he spent nearly eight days in orbit on the Russian Soyuz TM-32, the International Space Station (ISS), and Soyuz TM-31. Following Russia’s halting of orbital space tourism earlier this year due to an increase in the ISS crew size, private Russian company, Orbital Technologies, has now announced plans to build, launch and operate the world’s first commercial space station (CSS). It envisions the station will be used by professional crews and corporate researchers to conduct scientific experiments, as well as private citizens looking for an out of this world holiday destination.  Read More

Lunar Microwave Radiometer Daytime Brightness Temperature map of the Moon

The first complete microwave image of the Moon taken by Chinese lunar satellite Chang'E-1 has been revealed. Chang’E-1 is China’s first scientific mission to explore planetary bodies beyond Earth and the on-board Lunar Microwave Radiometer has made it possible for the first time to globally map the Moon in microwave frequencies. Radar observations of the Moon are unable to provide thermal information, and microwave observations taken from Earth cannot reach the far side of the moon. So Chang'E-1's (CE-1) orbit was conducted at an altitude of 200km (124 miles) and allowed it to observe every location of the moon with a nadir view and at high spatial resolution.  Read More

Boeing and Space Adventures plan to offer commercial spaceflight opportunities (Image: Spa...

Boeing and Space Adventures have joined forces to offer "affordable" travel to low Earth orbit for private space tourists. A memorandum of agreement between the two companies could see flights on-board the Boeing Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft from 2015.  Read More

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