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An autonomous spaceport drone ship will act as the landing target for the Falcon 7

On Friday, the Dragon CRS-5 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. If the launch is successful, the unmanned Dragon spacecraft will carry supplies and experiments to the ISS, but that part is almost routine. What is unusual is that SpaceX has confirmed that it will not only attempt a powered landing of the Falcon 9 booster, but will do so as a precision landing on a robotic sea barge.  Read More

Artist's impression of Venus Express making its aerobraking maneuver (Image: ESA/C Carreau...

The European Space Agency's (ESA) eight-year Venus Express mission has come to an end. Having already extended its lifespan to four times that originally planned, the unmanned orbiter has exhausted its fuel during a final attempt to further prolong its usefulness. According to ESA, the spacecraft can no longer hold the correct attitude to maintain communications with Earth and will soon burn up in the Venusian atmosphere.  Read More

Rolls-Royce oX provides collision warnings and data

Rolls-Royce, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Aalto University are expanding on their ideas for a virtual bridge that could soon lead to a future where the line between manned and robotic ships becomes completely blurred. Combining automated ship systems and constant high-data level communications, it's part of what Rolls-Royce see as the "next major transition for the shipping industry."  Read More

Artist's concept of of New Horizons approaching Pluto (Image: NASA)

If you think it's hard waking up after a nine-hour plane flight, imagine doing so after a space voyage of nine years and three billion miles. On Saturday, NASA's New Horizons deep space probe woke itself up from hibernation mode as it began preparations for its flyby of Pluto and its moons next July. Having traveled 2.9 billion miles from Earth and with 162 million miles to go, the signals announcing the awakening took four hours and 26 minutes to cover the distance to NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.  Read More

Artist's impression of Orion re-entering the Earth's atmosphere (Image: NASA)

Another chapter in the history of spaceflight was written today at 8:29am PST, as the EFT-1 mission ended with the splashdown of the Orion capsule in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. Though designed to carry astronauts into deep space, the Orion was unmanned for the flight, which was planned to certify the spacecraft and test critical flight systems.  Read More

Artist's concept of Haybusa2 taking a surface sample on JU3 (Image: JAXA)

Sometimes it seems as if the history of spaceflight is a long exercise in oneupsmanship with each agency trying to top the others. Case in point is Japan's Hayabusa2 mission, which, following the landing of Philae on on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last month, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed was successfully launched today at 1:22:04 pm JST from the Tanegashima Space Center on a mission to not only land on an asteroid, but to bomb it.  Read More

Artist's concept of Orion adjusting its attitude for re-entry (Image: NASA)

Orion is go for launch. At a press conference today, NASA and aerospace industry officials confirmed that the EFT-1 mission to test the deep-space capsule designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit has been given the final clearance for launch on Thursday morning. The unmanned spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy booster on a four-hour flight that will send it 3,600 mi (5,800 km) from Earth before returning to Earth.  Read More

The Andy Rover is designed to explore rough lunar terrain ( Photo: CMU)

Carnegie Mellon University has unveiled Andy, a four-wheeled unmanned rover designed to explore the rough terrain and recently discovered pits of the Moon. Developed in cooperation with Pittsburgh's Astrobotic Technology, the solar powered robot is CMU's entry for the US$20 million-plus Google Lunar XPrize, and may one day help pave the way toward permanent outposts on the Moon.  Read More

Rendering of Lunar Mission One lander

Another private space exploration venture is under way with the British-led Lunar Mission One announcing plans to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon. Initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the non-profit organization hopes to drill ten times deeper into the lunar surface than has ever previously been attempted and use the borehole to store a giant digital time capsule of human knowledge.  Read More

Technicians at Lockheed Martin prepare the InSight Mars lander for propulsion proof and le...

At some point in every project, you stop unpacking the parts and start putting them together. What's true for flat-pack furniture is also true for spacecraft, so Lockheed Martin has begun the Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) phase of NASA's INterior exploration using Seismic investigations, geodesy and heat transport (InSight) Mars lander project. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the unmanned InSight probe will be the first deep-drilling mission sent to the Red Planet.  Read More

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