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Spacecraft

The IXS Enterprise design that takes into account current physics (Image: Courtesy of Mark...

Artist Mark Rademaker has unveiled a set of concept images imagining what a spaceship capable of traveling to other stars in a matter of months would really look like. Although it may look like something from the next science fiction epic and is unlikely to lift off anytime soon, his IXS Enterprise design is actually based on some hard science.  Read More

Artist's impression of Rosetta's Philae probe approaching comet (Image: ESA/ATG medialab)

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which back in January awoke from 957 days hibernation on its way to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has now started its first instrument observations. Included in these instruments are three NASA science packages; MIRO, ALICE, and IES, all of which have started sending science data back to Earth.  Read More

SpaceShipTwo will carry 12 NASA experiments (Image: Mars Scientific/Clay Center Observator...

Science and space tourism shook hands this week with NASA announcing 12 technology experiments that will fly on the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane under a charter agreement with Virgin Galactic. The payload is a mixture of government, academic, and private microgravity experiments that will form the first commercial research flight for the spacecraft.  Read More

The ESA Common Berthing Mechanism is intended to replace other devices, such as this Russi...

Docking is the paradox of spaceflight. On the one hand, it’s as boring to watch as an apple turning brown; on the other, it’s white-knuckle suspense when you realise that tons of paper-thin metal are one misstep away from destruction. What’s worse, the number of different docking port designs makes compatibility a major concern, so ESA is developing a universal docking mechanism that will allow any spacecraft to lock onto any other.  Read More

The 35-year old spacecraft will be sent on a new comet flyby mission (Image: NASA)

A 35-year old space probe has come back to life after a 16-year slumber thanks to the world's largest single-aperture radio telescope. Using the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico, the ISEE-3 Reboot Project has re-established contact with the mothballed ISEE-3 space probe. The private organization took control of the unmanned ex-NASA spacecraft and is commanding it to execute functions as part of an assessment of its health before returning it to exploration service.  Read More

The first night-time flight of the Morpheus lander (Image: NASA)

Spacecraft lifting off at night are a beautiful sight, but equally impressive is when one lands in the dark under its own power. NASA’s robotic Morpheus prototype planetary lander did both of those in its first night-time free flight at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which included an autonomous landing in an artificial lunar landscape.  Read More

The Dragon V2 was unveiled at a brief media event

Having teased the public by showing off the SuperDraco engine, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk takes the wraps off the Dragon V2 manned spacecraft that it’s designed to propel. In a brief media event at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California headquarters, Musk introduced the larger, more powerful version of the reusable Dragon capsule, which will one day carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth to land under its own power.  Read More

The SuperDraco engine test firing

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is set for an upgrade with the company announcing the successful qualification testing of its SuperDraco rocket engine. Designed to replace the Draco engines used for attitude control on the Dragon orbital spacecraft, the SuperDraco will act as the Dragon’s launch emergency escape system, as well as giving it the ability to make a powered landing on Earth and other worlds.  Read More

Artist's Impression of Cassini passing near Titan (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Data collected from observations recorded by NASA's Cassini mission has been used to propose ways to better understand the atmospheres of exoplanets. By studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite, Titan, scientists have shown how spectra are subtly altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, thereby giving a greater insight into interpreting the spectral readings of the atmosphere of these distant worlds.  Read More

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, shown here on a test flight, will be fueled by a thermoset...

As the still-to-be-announced date of the first commercial flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo approaches, more and more of the technology involved is getting nailed down. A case in point is the company's announcement that it has decided which fuel will be used in the first passenger-carrying flights of the suborbital spacecraft. The solid fuel grains that will fuel the world’s largest operational hybrid rocket will be a thermoset plastic similar to nylon.  Read More

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