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.
Lockheed Martin has completed final assembly of NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith EXplorer (OSIRIS-REx) deep-space probe. The unmanned spacecraft, designed to rendezvous with an asteroid and return samples to Earth, will now undergo five months of environmental testing at the company’s Space Systems facilities near Denver before delivery to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Early last year, researchers at MIT floated the idea of "gas stations" in space that have the potential to cut the costs of future missions to the Moon considerably. Now a new study out of MIT says that, although possibly a little out of the way, the Moon would make a worthwhile refueling pit stop for manned missions to Mars by reducing the mass of a launch from Earth by 68 percent.
As spacecraft for manned and planetary missions get larger, so do their heat shields – which are becoming very big indeed. To avoid the day when the shield becomes too large for any existing or planned launcher, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California is developing the Adaptive Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT) heat shield, which uses carbon-fiber cloth and can be folded up like an umbrella. The cloth heat shield recently completed tests that simulated entering the Martian atmosphere.
It seems as if the age of the bench-top breakthrough in rocket science is not a thing of the past. Dr Patrick Neumann of the University of Sydney has developed a new ion drive as part of his PhD thesis that is claimed to outperform the best one devised by NASA. According to Neumann, his new drive, which is still in the experimental stage, is more efficient than the latest High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPEP) ion engine and holds the promise of "Mars and back on a tank of fuel."
Last year, SpaceX unveiled its Crew Dragon, which is scheduled to begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017. Now the company is giving the public a look at the interior. Sporting a minimalist design, it's intended to not only provide safety, but a considerable degree of comfort.
No bottles of champagne were broken, but Boeing’s CST-100 commercial crew transportation spacecraft officially has a new name. Intended to one day ferry astronauts to the International Space Station – and potentially paying customers to low-Earth orbit – the spacecraft is now known as the Starliner.
As demonstrated by the bumpy landing of ESA's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, exploring comets, asteroids, and small moons can be difficult due to their low gravity. Not only can landing on one be like trying to alight on a trampoline, but roving around their surfaces is next to impossible because the negligible gravity offers practically no traction. To overcome this, a team of engineers is developing Hedgehog, a completely symmetrical robot rover for low-gravity exploration that moves by hopping.