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Space Launch System

Artist's impression of the Orion spacecraft in orbit, having separated from the Delta IV l...

Progress is continuing apace as NASA readies its next-generation Orion spacecraft for her maiden flight, dubbed Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), set to blast off Dec. 4 atop a Delta IV heavy launch vehicle. Once operational, Orion will be the first spacecraft built with the capacity to carry out a manned flight beyond low-Earth orbit since the Apollo era, when man first walked on the moon. NASA boasts that Orion will represent the safest and most advanced spacecraft ever created, allowing man to capture an asteroid and in time, even put a man on Mars.  Read More

The Orion capsule getting ready to receive its skin prior to fueling (Image: NASA/Dimitri ...

NASA’s return to manned spaceflight took a couple of major steps forward this week with the completion of the Orion crew capsule and the attachment of it and the previously-completed service module to the adapter that will connect Orion to its rocket. This marks the completion of all major components of the spacecraft, which is due to make its first test flight in December.  Read More

Artist's concept of the SLS in flight (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) program has received the green light to progress after the completion of a critical design review. The next generation heavy launch system, which is designed to lift the Orion spacecraft for manned missions into deep space, is NASA’s most ambitious project since the 1960s and the most powerful rocket ever built, with 12 percent more thrust than the Saturn V booster used to send the Apollo missions to the Moon.  Read More

The tests aim at reducing the weight of the SLS by 20 percent (Image: NASA)

On December 9, NASA began what is either an impressive engineering test or a classic example of world-class larking about. At the space agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, engineers are crushing an enormous can by subjecting it to almost one million pounds of force. This may seem like a party trick that’s gone out of control, but there’s a serious reason behind this … or so NASA says. The crushing is part of the project to design the fuel tanks for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which will be used to launch the Orion spacecraft and deep space missions.  Read More

An F/A-18 research jet simulated various flight conditions to evaluate the new SLS flight ...

Earlier this month, NASA carried out tests on a new flight system for the Space Launch System (SLS), the heavy lifting rocket that will send the manned Orion spacecraft into deep space. What was unusual about this is that instead of using a rocket for the tests, the space agency used an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as a stand in as a way to carry out more tests at lower costs.  Read More

Hot-fire test of a 3D printed rocket part (Image: NASA/MSFC/NASA/David Olive)

NASA has shown a keen interest in 3D printed rocket components lately with a series of tests that have had considerable success, with printed parts in test firings working as well as those made by conventional methods. In the latest test firing on August 22, the largest 3-D printed rocket engine component yet tested by NASA withstood ten times the thrust previously generated by an engine using printed components.  Read More

Concept image showing Orion spacecraft approaching the robotic asteroid capture vehicle (I...

NASA has released new concept images and animations outlining one version of its plan to capture an asteroid with an unmanned craft and return it to lunar orbit for astronauts to study. The plan is part of an initiative by President Barack Obama for a US manned asteroid mission as outlined in his 2014 NASA budget request. The agency’s main objective at the moment is to come up with alternative approaches and evaluate them.  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

The Garvey Prospector P-15, powered by an ORBITEC vortex liquid fuel rocket engine, climbs...

Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) successfully flight tested its patented vortex liquid fuel rocket engine on October 25. The engine was installed in a Prospector-class Garvey Spacecraft Corporation launch vehicle, and the resulting rocket was launched at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry facility near Edwards Air Force Base in California. The flight established substantial progress toward ORBITEC's development of a 30,000-lb (13,600-kg) thrust vortex engine for the US Air Force Advanced Upper Stage Engine Program and for NASA's Space Launch System.  Read More

Blue Origin's New Shepard crew capsule shoots free of the launch vehicle simulator

Aerospace firm Blue Origin has already conducted wind tunnel and engine tests, in the development of its reusable orbital Space Vehicle. Last week, however, the company took a step forward in the development of its New Shepard suborbital system – at its West Texas launch site, the company conducted a successful pad escape test, in which a full-scale crew capsule was ejected from a launch vehicle simulator.  Read More

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