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Space Travel

Electric solar sail moves closer to reality
 Photo: Antonin Halas

April 16, 2008 It's a striking image made popular in sci-fi classics like the recent Star Wars films - a spacecraft hurtles through the galaxy propelled by gigantic reflective sails that use of solar radiation in place of on-board fuel . Space organizations around the world including NASA are pursuing this technology, but a rapidly evolving project from the Finnish Meteorological Institute has taken a radically different approach by using long metallic tethers and a solar-powered electron gun to create an "electric sail" that looks very different from the depictions of pressure sails with which we have become familiar.  Read More

Lynx sub-orbital spacecraft
 Image: www.xcor.com

March 28, 2008 Back in 2001 Californian millionaire Denis Tito made headlines as the worlds' first space tourist - shelling out around US$20 million for the privilege. Seven years on, the competition to offer such an out-of-this-world experience to a broader range of paying customers (and capitalize on what is expected to become a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade) is heating up. Earlier this year fledgling spaceline Virgin Galactic revealed designs for what will become its flagship -SpaceShipTwo, now Californian based XCOR Aerospace has unveiled a two-seater suborbital spaceship the size of a small private plane that the company expects to have airborne in 2010.  Read More

Google Lunar X PRIZE competitor Odyssey Moon Limited

March 5, 2008 In September 2007 the X PRIZE Foundation announced a $30million prize purse for the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the moon. Now the Foundation has released details of the first ten teams to register for this amazing space race.  Read More

NASA Lunar truck prototype 
 Photo Credit: NASA

March 3, 2008 NASA has released images of its latest lunar exploration concept vehicle - a six-wheeled, variable height, stand-to-operate surface rover prototype designed to provide ideas for the future as part of the long-term goal of establishing an outpost on the moon by 2020.  Read More

Artist's impression of the newly detected planets 
 Photo courtesy KASI, CBNU, and ARCSEC

February 20, 2008 With upwards of 100 billion stars in our own Milky Way and at least that number of galaxies in the observable universe, the odds have long pointed to the likely existence of planets beyond our own solar system. The first discovery of such an extra-solar planet to receive subsequent confirmation took place in 1988 and two decades later, as detection techniques and equipment continue to improve, that number is now approaching 300. Now news that Astronomers from the University of St Andrews have found a new planetary system some 5,000 light years away that bears "striking similarities" to our Solar system.  Read More

MoonLITE orbiter carrying four penetrators

February 20, 2008 A new report has outlined the possibility of US support for the planned UK-led MoonLITE mission, a project that aims to use a solar-powered spacecraft to fire four suitcase-sized “penetrators” at the surface of the moon at speeds of 300m/s. The penetrators would be deployed to the far side of the Moon, and one of the poles, where they would sink to depths of up to two metres beneath the moon’s surface, and analyse “Moonquakes”, study heat flows, and determine the chemical and physical structure of the Moon’s interior.  Read More

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo

February 4, 2008 The era of private space travel is another step closer to reality with Virgin Galactic revealing designs for the craft set to become the flagship of the world's first spaceline. Based on SpaceShipOne, which claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize in October 2004 by successfully becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo are now approaching completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California. Flight testing set to get underway towards the middle of this year for what will be the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft, capable of carrying eight astronauts or other payloads into sub-orbital space.  Read More

SpaceX conducts first mult-engine firing of Falcon 9 rocket
 Photo: SpaceX

January 31, 2008 Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, has conducted the first multi-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor. The Falcon 9 is the launch vehicle for the SpaceX Dragon, which will facilitate the delivery of cargo and up to seven people to and from the International Space Station.  Read More

Boeing will produce the Ares I crew launch vehicle's instrument unit avionics

December 22, 2007 The U.S. Vision for Space Exploration is an important step closer to being realized, with NASA awarding the Boeing Company a $265 million contract to produce the instrument unit avionics for the Ares I launch vehicle - a platform that will eventually be used for manned expeditions to the Moon and Mars.  Read More

Artist rendition of ARCTUS in orbit

December 21, 2007 Commercial space services provider SPACEHAB has announced the success of a mid air retrieval demonstration test performed as part of its Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilization Spacecraft (ARCTUS) Program. ARCTUS represents a low-cost, low-risk Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS) solution for cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS). The ARCTUS Program will support NASA’s requirement to fill the International Space Station (ISS) cargo supply gap between the space shuttle’s planned retirement in 2010 and the replacement Orion program scheduled to be operational in 2015.  Read More

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