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Spacecraft

Cluster quartet (Image: ESA)

Space maneuvers have often been described as an orbital ballet, but the European Space Agency's (ESA) Cluster II satellites are currently in a ballet where the dancers are moving blindfolded at hypersonic speeds as they pass within a cosmic hairsbreadth of one another. That's because two of the Cluster satellites are flying within "touching distance" of one another as scientists try to learn more about the effects of solar wind on the Earth's magnetic field.  Read More

Artist's concept of the IXV re-entering the atmosphere (Image: ESA)

The European Space Agency has given the green light for the launch of its unmanned spaceplane, Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV). The original plan for a launch atop a Vega rocket from the ESA space center in French Guiana last November was put on hold due to safety concerns about its trajectory. With these issues now resolved, lift off is rescheduled for February 11.  Read More

The awarding of NASA's most recent Commercial Crew Program contract will see an end to Ame...

The push to return manned launch capabilities to United States soil is bringing about an exciting period in the commercial space industry. September 2014 saw the awarding of the US Government's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract, with both Boeing and SpaceX benefiting from a significant investment of US$6.8 billion. The contract has the ultimate goal of expediting the development and production of commercial spacecraft specializing in low-Earth orbit operations to the ISS. But what were the driving factors behind the change, and how do the planned replacements match up to the capabilities and conditions of the long standing Soyuz program? Read on as we delve deeper into NASA's mission to end the nation's reliance on Russia by 2017.  Read More

The RS-25 engine took place at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi...

The Orion spacecraft may have had its maiden flight, but it's still waiting for the Space Launch System (SLS) booster that will send it beyond the Moon. That wait got a bit shorter on Friday as NASA test fired the RS-25 engine that will power the SLS. The first of eight hot tests, it took place at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  Read More

Artist's concept of Dawn firing its ion engine (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Like the end of a very long and eventful road trip, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has its main goal in sight. The space agency says that the unmanned probe has emerged from behind the Sun as it uses its ion propulsion to catch up with the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt and that mission control was able to re-establish contact. The craft has received instructions for executing a series of maneuvers that will take it on its final approach phase, which will end with it going into orbit around Ceres.  Read More

Artist's concept of the MESSENGER orbiter (Image: NASA)

Now orbiting the planet Mercury after over ten years in space, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is still functioning better than expected. Its mission will soon come to an end though – it's running out of fuel and is scheduled to crash into the planet in March. However, mission control have come up with a novel plan that will use the helium used to pressurize the unmanned probe's engine to give it another month of life.  Read More

The milestone is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability program (Image: ...

At the moment, if you want to fly to the International Space Station, your only option is to hitch a lift on one of Russia's 1970s-vintage Soyuz space capsules. That may not be the case for too much longer, with NASA announcing that it has approved the first milestone for the manned version of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft.  Read More

The first flight of NASA's Orion capsule was one of a number of 2014 space firsts (Image: ...

It's been a busy year in space. In a mixture of triumph and tragedy, space exploration reached new horizons, tested new technologies, and pushed the limits of the possible in 2014. So as the old year draws to close, Gizmag looks back on the space highlights of the past twelve months.  Read More

The video shows Orion's view of its fiery re-entry and splashdown (Image: NASA)

Proving that not all the space spectaculars are on the big screen at Christmas, NASA has released video taken from inside the Orion spacecraft during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere earlier this month. The ten-minute video shows the final minutes before its December 10 splashdown as it made a fiery descent ahead of a parachute landing in the Pacific ocean.  Read More

Artist's concept of the MAVEN spacecraft (Image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

Mars is regarded as the most Earth-like of the planets in the Solar System, but its atmosphere is only 0.6 percent as dense as Earth's and is constantly leaking what little air it has into space. NASA'S Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) Mars orbiter is providing new insights into the loss of the Martian atmosphere by discovering how the solar winds penetrate to surprisingly low altitudes.  Read More

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