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Spaceflight

The glass facade of the Spaceport (Photo: Spaceport America)

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.  Read More

Artist's concept of LightSail fully deplyed

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.  Read More

CRS-5 lifting off (Photo: SapceX)

The CRS-5 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.  Read More

ignition of EFT-1 (Image: NASA)

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.  Read More

Will the crash of SpaceShipTwo put and end to space tourism before it begins? (Image: NTSB...

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?  Read More

Firing lasers up the backsides of rockets could accelerate them faster without requiring e...

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.  Read More

A contest has been launched by Spaceship Earth Grants offering private citizens a chance t...

Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG), a US public-benefit organization and an affiliate of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, has launched a contest that aims to give away one space flight for every 50,000 applications it receives. With a judging panel made up of former NASA astronauts, industry experts, space enthusiasts, and others, this new program aims to be a crowd-driven and crowd-funded effort to send private citizens into space.  Read More

The UK spaceport would court commercial spaceflight operators, such as Virgin Galactic (Ph...

The commercialization of space travel is picking up pace with companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic leading the way. In a bid to ensure it doesn't miss out on the potential economic benefits of commercial spaceflights, the UK is looking to construct its first spaceport, with a shortlist of eight potential sites announced at the Farnborough Air Show.  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

Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have signed a joint agreement with for airspace use ...

Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have signed a joint agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for access to airspace for spaceflights from New Mexico. The agreement helps to pave the way for commercial flights of Virgin's SpaceShipTwo, and is the first agreement of its type for a commercial spaceline.  Read More

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