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Rocket

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

F-1 thrust chamber

Amazon.com founder and the man behind Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, has recovered parts of the F-1 rocket engines used in the Apollo missions. Recovered by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) from the multi-purpose offshore vessel Seabed Worker, they were brought up from a depth of over 14,000 feet (4,267 m) over a three week period. Bezos has been working on the project for over a year in hopes of recovering the engines used to launch Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969. However, the serial numbers for the recovered engines are missing or partly missing, so identifying which mission the rockets are from will be difficult.  Read More

The SpaceX Grasshopper reusable rocket in action

The latest test of the SpaceX reusable Grasshopper rocket has been presented by CEO Elon Musk at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. It shows the rocket, capable of both vertical takeoff and landing, reaching its greatest height yet.  Read More

An ion engine test for Deep Space One (Photo: NASA/JPL)

The phrase "engage the ion drive" still has the ring of a line from Star Wars, but these engines have been used in space missions for more than four decades and remain the subject of ongoing research. Ion engines have incredible fuel efficiency, but their low thrust requires very long operating times ... and therein lies the rub. To date, erosion within such an engine seriously limits its operational lifetime. Now a group of researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a new design that largely eliminates this erosion, opening the gates for higher thrust and more efficient drives for manned and unmanned missions to the reaches of the Solar System.  Read More

A close look at the business end of Glenn Brittian's rocket motorcycle (Photo: Glenn Britt...

A state-of-the-art rocket-powered motorcycle that was recently advertised for sale on eBay has been sold to Gerd Habermann Racing. Engineered to hit speeds in excess of 400 mph (640 km/h) during the quarter-mile, the bike was designed and built by Glenn Brittian, one of the few drivers licensed by the National Hot Rod Association to drive a rocket dragster. The asking price was US$27,000, but the actual selling price has not been made public.  Read More

Artist's rendition of the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (NCPS), a nuclear engine inte...

Nuclear-powered rocket engines are not new. In the 1960s, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union developed and tested thermal nuclear rockets fitted with flight-worthy components. However, Project Rover and NERVA (Nuclear Engine for Nuclear Rocket Application) programs were defunded in the early 1970s just before test flights were to start. Now, as part of the Advanced Exploration Systems program at NASA, the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage team is tackling a three-year project to demonstrate the viability of and to evaluate materials for thermal nuclear propulsion systems for use in future deep space missions.  Read More

SpaceX's Grasshopper VTVL testbed ascending from its launch pad

The SpaceX Grasshopper vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) testbed has successfully flown to a height of 40 meters (131 ft), hovered for a bit and subsequently landed in a picture perfect test on December 17, 2012. The Grasshopper had previously taken two hops less than 6 m (20 ft) in height, but the latest test was the first that saw it reach an altitude taller than the rocket itself, which is a modified Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle. The flight lasted 29 seconds from launch to landing, and carried a 1.8 m (6 ft) cowboy dummy to give an indication of scale.  Read More

Armadillo Aerospace's STIG-B floats into a GPS-guided soft landing

Armadillo Aerospace has taken some major strides with its FAA-approved suborbital rocket, the STIG-B. Despite encountering difficulties reaching design altitude during testing, the company appears to have mastered the landing side of the equation using a self-guided ramair parachute system. A flight on December 6 returned the rocket to within 55 meters (180 ft) of the intended recovery point.  Read More

M2 Cusing Machine in operation (Image: NASA)

NASA engineers are using a 3D laser printing system to produce intricate metal parts such as rocket engine components for its next-generation Space Launch System (SLS). The method called “selective laser melting “ (SLM) promises to streamline fabrication and significantly reduce production costs.  Read More

MaganStyer hydrogen fuel handling system (Image: MagnaSteyr Aerospace)

At first glance, hydrogen seems like a brilliant alternative fuel for motor cars. It burns so clean that all it produces is water, it’s the most abundant element in the universe and it doesn’t need all those rare earth elements and heavy metals that electric vehicles depend on. The only trouble is, it’s very difficult to handle. In an effort to make hydrogen cars practical, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Austrian automotive manufacturer MagnaSteyr are adapting technology developed for the Ariane rockets so that it can be used in cars, as part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme.  Read More

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