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Spacecraft

— Space

First high speed laser communication satellite set for launch

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.

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— Space Feature

Where space exploration is taking us in 2016

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.

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— Space

Potential delay for first test flight of India's spaceplane demonstrator

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.

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— Space

NASA's Juno spacecraft will place planetary exploration in the hands of the public

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.

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— Space

Blue Origin's New Shepard makes historic touch down

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.

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— Collectibles

First digital computer installed on a manned spacecraft goes to auction

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.

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