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Unmanned

Recently, DARPA unveiled its ALASA system for launching satellites from fighter planes. Now NASA is upping the ante with its Towed Glider Air-Launch System (TGALS), which is designed to launch satellites from a twin-fuselage towed glider. Under development by NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, it's designed as an economical method for putting spacecraft into low-Earth orbit with the first test flight of a scale prototype having already been conducted. Read More
It was fourth time's the charm today as NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 6:05 pm EST. The launch went without incident, placing the unmanned solar weather station into a parking orbit, but rough weather in the recovery area meant that the planned power landing attempt of the Falcon 9 booster had to be abandoned. Read More
ESA's IXV experimental spaceplane has successfully carried out its 100-minute mission to test technology re-entry and navigation technology for the next generation of European spacecraft. Whilst often described as a spaceplane, the IXV is in reality an atmospheric re-entry testing package wrapped in what appears to be a basic space shuttle fuselage. The resulting data accrued from the launch will inform a wide range of endeavors, spanning from re-supply trips to the ISS, to manned return missions to Mars. Read More
Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium in Cocoa Beach, Florida, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design, which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles. Read More
After months of searching, the Euopean Space Agency (ESA) has given up the hunt for the lost Philae comet lander. Despite having narrowed the final resting place of the unmanned probe to a "landing strip" measuring 350 x 30 m (1,150 x 100 ft) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the space agency has been unable to locate it and has commanded the Rosetta spacecraft to move into a higher orbit as it continues its science mission. Read More
The last place you'd expect to find signs of water erosion is in the Asteroid Belt, but researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that data collected during the Dawn spacecraft's visit to Vesta indicates that it not only once had water, but that it formed gullies and other erosion features on its surface. Read More
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
Elon Musk has revealed video and details of the crash of the Falcon 9 booster as it attempted to make an historic powered landing after the launch of the CRS-5 mission. In a series of brief statements on Twitter, the SpaceX founder and CEO explained the cause of the crash and future plans for the company's ambitions to produce a fully reusable space launch system. Read More
Curious about what's living on the deep sea floor? Well, the Autosub6000 AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) is helping us find out. Led by Dr. Kirsty Morris, a team at the UK's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has equipped one of the unmanned submarines with a high-resolution photographic system. As a result, it's claimed to be far more effective at identifying deep-sea life than the usual approach of scientific trawling. Read More

News media heavyweight CNN has reached an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designed to usher in the use of drones in newsgathering and reporting. CNN plans on experimenting with the vehicles in producing video content, while the government agency says the initiative will help to inform its drone policy moving forward. Read More

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