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Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of 2013

This has been a busy year in space, with rovers roving on Mars and the first landing on the Moon in 40 years, the search for life beyond our Earth heating up, and 3D printing moving into orbit. As a Chinese rover explores the lunar surface and astronauts work to repair the International Space Station (ISS), Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of 2013.  Read More

Flock 1 will be the largest fleet of Earth imaging satellites in orbit

Space and analytics firm Planet Labs has secured US$52 million in new funding, bringing it to within touching distance of launching a fleet of Earth imaging satellites in early 2014. The new investment brings the company’s total raised to over $65 million, and will help in its aim to generate imagery of and data about Earth, which will be openly accessible for both commercial and humanitarian purposes.  Read More

The SES-8 satellite lifts-off atop the Falcon 9 rocket

Three’s a charm, they say. On Monday, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met success with its third attempt at launching the SES-8 satellite into geosynchronous orbit. At 5:41 PM EST, the Orbital Sciences GEOStar-2 commercial telecommunications satellite lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida atop an upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle. This marks SpaceX’s first geostationary transfer mission.  Read More

The Swarm satellites being prepared for launch (Photo: ESA)

On Friday, ESA began a four-year mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field with the launch of the three-satellite Swarm constellation into Earth orbit. Packed “like sardines” in their fairing, the unmanned spacecraft lifted off at 12:02 GMT (1:02 PM CET) from the Plesetsk space port in northern Russia atop a Rockot launcher.  Read More

Sunny side of GOCE, which has been dubbed the 'Ferrari of space'  (Image: ESA–AOES-Mediala...

ESA announced on Monday that its Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has ended its extended mission to map the Earth’s gravitational field. Orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 224 km (139 mi), the unmanned probe, known as the “Ferrari of space” because of its streamlined shape, has run out of fuel for the ion engine that kept it in orbit and is expected to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere within two weeks.  Read More

Artist's impression of a massive asteroid impact (Image: NASA/Don Davis)

Last year, the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow put forward the idea of using fleets of laser-toting satellites to deflect potentially dangerous objects away from Earth. Now, Dr. Richard Fork, principal investigator for the Laser Science and Engineering Laboratory at the University of Alabama and his team have refined the idea, saying that it’s not only feasible, but could handle anything up to the size of a comet.  Read More

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California

If you saw a UFO over South Africa on Sunday, it was (probably) SpaceX’s improved Falcon 9 going into orbit. The commercial launch vehicle lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at 9:00 AM CDT on a demonstration flight of the upgraded booster and a new engine cluster configuration.  Read More

Artist's concept of the XS-1 spaceplane

Currently, launching satellites is an involved and expensive process. DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program hopes to make this a thing of the past, by developing a shuttle-like resuable launch system that can turn around from landing to relaunch in one day, and bring down the cost of launching by a factor of 10.  Read More

The Swarm constellation will provide the most accurate survey of the Earth's magnetic fiel...

The first of three satellites designed to undertake a comprehensive study the Earth’s magnetic field left Munich airport on Tuesday aboard an Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft bound for Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This first Swarm satellite will be followed by two identical craft and more than 60 tons of support equipment before all three are launched into polar orbit in November.  Read More

Artist's concept of CleanSpace One approaching a satellite (Image: EPFL)

Back in the 1970s, there was a short-lived sitcom called Quark about an outer space rubbish collector. What was played for laughs back then may soon be a reality with the announcement that Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Swiss Space Systems (S3) have formed a partnership to launch the CleanSpace One satellite into orbit to collect space debris using a launch system that promises to be cheaper than using conventional techniques.  Read More

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