"A sailor must be able to swim in the sea. Likewise, a cosmonaut must be able to swim in outer space." With those words, the head of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev, initiated the crew of the first spacewalk mission. On March 18, 1965, cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Pavel Belyayev lifted off in Voskhod (Sunrise) 2, from which Leonov would exit to become the first person in history to step into the vacuum of space.
Lockheed Martin has provided a glimpse at the next generation of commercial spacecraft by revealing its proposal for NASA's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program. The new cargo ships, which Lockheed compares to the US transcontinental railroads of the 19th century, are designed to not only resupply the International Space Station, but also support manned deep space missions, such as the first expedition to Mars.
The UK government has shortened its list of potential sites for Europe's first commercial spaceport. It is hoped that the spaceport will be operational by the year 2018, ready to ride the wave of a new breed of commercial spaceplane that will carry paying customers and even satellites into low-Earth orbit.
The past year has been a mixed bag for the commercial space industry, with successful launches from the likes of SpaceX
, but also a few mishaps
, including a tragic Virgin Galactic crash
that claimed the life of one pilot. That last incident in particular has led some politicians in New Mexico to question the future of Spaceport America
, where Virgin is an anchor tenant, and to even call for the US$200 million facility to be put up for sale.
Though we tend to think of private spaceflight as being in the SpaceX
league, it also includes many smaller-scale efforts. For example, the non-profit Planetary Society has announced that its LightSail spacecraft will make its first test flight in May. The solar-propelled CubeSat will lift off as a piggyback cargo atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
mission lifted off today in a pre-dawn launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. As the unmanned spacecraft rose into orbit to resupply the International Space Station, the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster made an historic attempt at a powered landing on a drone barge positioned in the Atlantic Ocean, which did not come off successfully.
NASA reentered the field of manned spaceflight as it launched the first Orion
crew capsule into space today at 7:05 am EST from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy booster on a four and a half hour flight. The capsule, which was not carrying a crew, will carry out a two-orbit flight around the Earth, which will take it to an altitude of 3,600 mi (5,800 km) before returning for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California later this morning.
With the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo
within four days of Orbital Science’s Antares/Cygnus spacecraft
exploding on the launch pad, it’s been a bad week for commercial spaceflight in general and space tourism in particular. Even though the investigations into the SpaceShipTwo incident are only beginning, there are those who already claim that Sir Richard Branson’s dream of sending tourists on suborbital flights into space is as dead as the Hindenburg. But is it?
Russian scientists have proposed a novel way to accelerate a spaceship while in flight – firing a ground-based laser up its backside. The new technique uses a plasma flow caused by laser ablation to increase the exhaust efficiency of a traditional rocket propulsion system, and could theoretically accelerate an aircraft beyond Mach 10.