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The ESA's Proba-V satellite (Image: ESA)

When it comes to keeping tabs on the location of aircraft, radar has long ruled the roost. But radar range is limited, and long-haul planes become untraceable when passing over oceans and large deserts or polar regions. By equipping orbiting satellites with instruments that listen in on ADS-B signals, scientists think that it should possible to track aircraft over the course of their entire journey, and with the launch of Proba-V, they're ready to put the idea to the test.  Read More

The OTIS glider and an Atlantic sturgeon, which is about to be tagged and released (Activi...

The Atlantic sturgeon, which is one of the world’s oldest species of fish, can live up to 60 years, reaching a length of of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a weight of over 800 pounds (360 kg). It’s also endangered, due to past overfishing for its caviar. In order to protect the sturgeon that are left, it’s important to keep fishermen from catching them accidentally. That’s why researchers at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University are calling upon satellites, and an underwater robot known as OTIS.  Read More

The Breitling Emergency 2 watch has a built-in rescue beacon

Emergency beacons are great insurance for aviators and sailors, but they aren't worth much if a disaster leaves you in one place and the beacon in another. Just to be safe, you might as well strap the beacon to your wrist, which is what the Breitling Emergency II does. The Swiss-made wrist chronograph watch provides those who travel in remote, risky places with a dual-channel emergency satellite transmitter that activates with a twist and a yank.  Read More

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has a near-collision with Cosmos 1805

Julie McEnery is NASA's Project Scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. When she checked her email on March 29, 2012, she was startled to find an automatically generated message stating that in six days, her half-billion-plus dollar satellite was going to cross paths with Cosmos 1805, a Soviet-era spy satellite. The predicted encounter had the two satellites occupying the same coordinates only 30 milliseconds apart. Not only that, but Cosmos was in an orbit moving nearly perpendicular to Fermi such that their collision would be equivalent to tons of high explosives. Essentially total destruction.  Read More

High altitude balloon test of PhoneSat 1.0

When Orbital Science Corporation's Antares rocket lofted a simulated spacecraft mass into orbit on its maiden flight from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, it also carried a piggyback cargo of three NASA nanosatellites. These “PhoneSats,” which were built using smartphone and off-the-shelf consumer components in a standard cubesat frame, may be the cheapest satellites ever launched.  Read More

Proba-3 satellites in formation

The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to bring the sort of precision normally associated with Swiss watch making to satellite navigation. When it launches in 2017, ESA’s Proba-3 mission will incorporate the first satellite pair capable of flying in formation to within a tolerance of a millimeter to one another. It's part of a demonstration technology that could one day be used to build space telescopes using formation-flying satellites as a “rigid structure” that would be impossibly large to achieve in a single spacecraft.  Read More

Artist's concept of a Phantom Phoenix Satellite

One problem with satellites is that they’re either one-offs or part of a constellation of a single, costly design. Both can be expensive and neither lends itself to getting a specialized satellite into orbit quickly and on a budget. Boeing’s answer to this is a kit car class of a small satellites called Phantom Phoenix that are relatively easy to customize and economical to launch.  Read More

Scanning electron microscope image of a strand of the new solar sail tehther (Image: ESA/H...

This month, the University of Helsinki and the European Space Agency (ESA) will test a new space tether that has less chance of snapping under the stresses of operating in orbit. Installed aboard Estonia’s ESTCube-1 cubesat, the new tether is scheduled to be launched with ESA’s Proba-V satellite atop a Vega rocket as part of an experiment in developing an electric solar sail.  Read More

The newest Landsat satellite has transmitted its first images back home (Image: NASA)

We haven't heard anything from NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft since its launch in February, but the satellite is now ready to start sending its first images back home. The first batch of photos are part of a three-month testing period, and show the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. Viewed from space, it's already a pretty spectacular scene, but the images from the LDCM managed to enhance it even further.  Read More

S3's planned satellite-carrying shuttle, being carried itself on an Airbus A300

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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