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Spacecraft

NASA has announced that Boeing and SpaceX would provide manned spacecraft to service the I...

The dawn of manned commercial spaceflight received a major boost as NASA announced in a news conference today that Boeing and SpaceX have been chosen to ferry US astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The US$6.8 billion contract was divided between the two companies to cover the cost of certification of the Boeing CST-100 and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, one demonstration mission for each, plus six commercial missions to the station.  Read More

Landing site J (pictured on the right) has been selected as Philae's primary landing site ...

The Rosetta mission's Landing Site Selection Group has selected the primary and back up landing sites for the ESA's Philae probe ahead of an attempted touchdown on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 11. Selecting sites J and C as the primary and back up sites respectively was no easy task, with mission operators weighing up various factors and racing against time since the spacecraft entered orbit around the comet on August 6. Prior to this, the comet had simply been too far away to characterize.  Read More

The Rosetta spacecraft has collected enough information to render a map of the various are...

As the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft continues its mission by accompanying comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P, for short) on its journey into the inner solar system, sensing instruments have been studying it prior to an attempted a landing by Rosetta's Philae probe. As a result, the spacecraft has collected enough information to render a map of the various areas on the surface of the comet showing that it is composed of several different regions created by a range of forces acting upon the object.  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 impression of Rosetta and 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Image: ESA/ATG Medialab)

Comets are often described as "dirty snowballs" of ice and dust, which suggests something that looks like what kids throw at each other in winter. But NASA’s Alice instrument package installed aboard the ESA Rosetta probe currently orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has sent back its first science data, which shows that the comet is about as white and fluffy as a lump of coal.  Read More

Artist's impression of Rosetta having released the Philae lander (Image: ESA-J. Huart, 201...

Rosetta is a mission of firsts. It is the first mission to successfully chase and rendezvous with a comet, and hopefully in November it will be the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on a celestial body that's so unlike anything we have explored before. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with firsts, there are untold risks and complications that are difficult to foresee ahead of time, but here are some of the dangers that we know about.  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

Artist's concept of the Philae lander that is set to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Ger...

After you become the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid, what do you do for an encore? For ESA’s Rosetta comet probe, the answer is to get ready for the first soft landing on a comet nucleus. Only weeks after going into orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the unmanned Rosetta explorer is engaged in a fast-paced reconnaissance of the comet and has identified five candidate sites for putting down the Philae lander in November.  Read More

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

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