Photokina 2014 highlights

Satellite

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

The five meter-long GOCE satellite has been found to have detected the 2011 Tohoku earthqu...

The European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched on March 17, 2009, as the first of a series of Earth Explorer satellites. Its mission is to capture high-resolution gravity measurements and produce an accurate gravity map – or geoid – of Earth. To increase the resolution of its measurements, GOCE was put into an unusually low orbit, which has also helped it to become the first satellite to sense sound waves from an earthquake from space.  Read More

STRaND-1 having its solar panels atached

The world’s first space smartphone was launched into orbit today (Feb 25) atop an Indian Space Research Organisation PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. It’s part of the systems of the STRaND-1 spacecraft, which was sent into a 785-kilometer (488-mi) Sun-synchronous orbit where it will carry out a series of technology demonstrations under the guidance of the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey, UK.  Read More

One of the BRITE nano-satellites, as it was being assembled in Toronto

At the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India this morning (Feb. 25), the smallest astronomical satellite ever built was launched into orbit aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C20 rocket. In fact, it wasn’t just one satellite, but two – each of the twin BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) spacecraft take the form of a cube that measures just 20 cm (7.8 inches) per side, and weighs in at under seven kilograms (15.4 lbs).  Read More

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