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Spacecraft

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

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

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