NASA's Juno spacecraft has successfully completed a maneuver designed to fine tune its orbit around the Sun, preparing it for a rendezvous with Jupiter in just over five months' time. The probe will be required to undertake one further burn on May 31 in order to complete the fine-tuning of its trajectory.
Since December, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been as close as it will get to the surface of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. The space agency and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory have put together the most comprehensive video tour yet from the spacecraft's lowest mapping orbit.
Space-based laser communications are moving out of the testing phase and into orbit as the first satellite in the European DAta Relay System (EDRS), or SpaceDataHighway, prepares for launch at the end of January. Likened to having a fiber optic cable in space, the 1.8 Gigabit per second system is a joint public–private partnership between Airbus Defence and Space and ESA that will act as a relay system between ground stations, satellites, and aircraft.
This year is shaping up as a bumper year in space with new missions ready to launch, deep space missions wrapping up, and commercial space going heavy. It's a year when spacecraft ditch on comets, rendezvous with asteroids, lift off for Mars, and arrive at Jupiter. It's also a year when rockets get bigger, space planes roll out, and winds get tracked. To get the lowdown on the highlights, here's a looks at where space exploration is taking us in 2016.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) may have to delay the first test flight of its experimental Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) spaceplane. The unmanned sub-orbital spacecraft, which is similar in design to the US Air Force's X-37B, was scheduled to be launched in February, but technical difficulties may put back the flight to the first week of April.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency confirmed today that its Hayabusa2 probe has successfully used the Earth's gravity to slingshot itself towards a rendezvous with an asteroid. The flyby maneuver saw the unmanned spacecraft swing by the Earth on December 3, with the closest approach of 3,090 km at 7:08 pm JST as it passed over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.
In July 2016, Jupiter will welcome NASA's Juno spacecraft, which will boast the dual purpose of unlocking many of the secrets of the enigmatic gas giant, and serving as a tool to bridge the gap between space exploration and the masses. The latter will be achieved with JunoCam, an onboard imaging instrument that will call on the public to serve as a virtual imaging team.
In April, Blue Origin, the aerospace company established by Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted the first test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle. While the launch was a success, the propulsion module was unable to be recovered as planned due to a loss of pressure in the hydraulic system on descent. But sticking to the old adage of, if you don't first succeed, try, try again, Blue Origin has now successfully launched and landed a re-usable rocket designed to take paying customers on a suborbital flight to the edge of space.
A Space Age collectible that not only represents a first in space, but also a first in computer history is on the auction block in Dallas, Texas. As part of its Space Exploration Signature Auction, Heritage Auctions is taking bids for a vintage random access, non-destructive readout 4,096 bit memory plane that flew on Gemini 3. This ferric memory unit was an integral part of the Gemini Spacecraft Computer, which was the first computer installed in a manned space capsule.
NASA confirmed today that the New Horizons deep-space probe has successfully carried out the first of four course corrections designed to culminate in a rendezvous with a Kuiper Belt object one billion miles beyond Pluto in 2019.