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Spacecraft

Artist's impression of New Horizons passing Pluto (Image: NASA)

Like a traveler on a very long road trip, a deep space probe has passed the last sign post before its destination. NASA has announced that its New Horizons probe has passed the orbit of Neptune – its last milestone before it flies by Pluto on July 14 next year. Launched in 2006, the piano-sized unmanned spacecraft is almost 2.75 billion mi (4.42 billion km) from Earth and is the fastest man-made object ever sent into space.  Read More

An FR9 test rocket awaiting flight

SpaceX gave a dramatic demonstration on Friday of why spacecraft undergo such thorough testing. At its testing ground at McGregor, Texas, a SpaceX Falcon 9 Reusable Development Vehicle 1 (F9R Dev 1) exploded in midair during a test flight. Nearby residents saw the fireball and local television station KXXV caught the incident on video. Elon Musk tweeted that the vehicle "auto-terminated," but there were no injuries or near-injuries, and that “Rockets are tricky …”  Read More

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collector (Image: UC Ber...

Good things come in microscopic packages – at least, so says NASA. According to the space agency, our first ambassadors from interstellar space may be seven particles measuring only about two microns, that were returned to Earth by the unmanned Stardust probe in 2006. They could provide new insights into the origin and evolution of interstellar dust.  Read More

ATV-5 docks under autonomous control (Image: ESA/NASA)

ESA’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5, Georges Lemaître, has arrived at the International Space Station. In what the space agency describes as a "flawless demonstration of technology and skill," the unmanned cargo ship autonomously docked itself while supervised by mission control in Toulouse, France and by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov inside the space station.  Read More

NASA has selected five finalists to move on in its NIAC Program

NASA has chosen five studies to advance to phase 2 of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The successful projects were chosen via a system of peer review, and represent the most promising technological concepts with the greatest potential to revolutionize the agency's approach to the building and operating of aerospace systems.  Read More

Artist's concept of ISEE-3 (Image: NASA)

A chapter of space history closed today as an ambitious project by a private organization to bring a 36-year old spacecraft back to life came to an end. Despite efforts by the ISEE-3 Reboot Project to restart the ISEE-3’s propulsion system, the unmanned probe has now been hurled back into deep space after a lunar flyby.  Read More

The proposals are intended to produce new power sources, such as the fuel cell used in thi...

Once upon a time, energy systems for space missions were simple. You used batteries for very short missions, solar panels in the inner Solar System, nuclear power generators if you were beyond Mars or needed a lot of power, and fuel cells for manned spacecraft. However, as space exploration starts looking into lunar polar craters, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter, new energy systems will be needed. To anticipate that need, NASA has made awards to four proposals to develop advanced energy storage technology for future manned and unmanned space missions..  Read More

Testing of recovery methods for the Orion spacecraft's maiden test flight in December 2014...

In preparation for the maiden test flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft, specialists from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the US Navy this week completed testing of various recovery methods for retrieving the crew module. The testing enabled the team to assess data and prepare for different scenarios that may come into play when the craft splashes into the Pacific Ocean this December.  Read More

The Rosetta spacecraft is now in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (Image: ESA)

The list of space firsts got a little longer this week. On August 6 at 11:30 am CET, ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany received radio signals confirming that Rosetta had begun its approach and was going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, making Rosetta the first spacecraft to go into orbit around a comet.  Read More

Artist's impression of Curiosity (Image: NASA)

Break out the party hats – NASA’s Curiosity rover is celebrating its second anniversary on Mars. On August 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm PDT (August 6, 05:31 GMT), the unmanned spacecraft touched down at Bradbury Landing in Gale Crater on the start of a multi-year mission to seek out areas where life could or may once have existed, and is now preparing to carry on for a third year.  Read More

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