Posts Tagged ‘Space’

First private space flight to the ISS in November?

August 16, 2011

California-based rocket maker SpaceX said that it will make a test flight in late November to the International Space Station, now that NASA has retired its space shuttle program.The Dragon space capsule to be launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket has been given a November 30th launch date by NASA.

The Space X news release is here.

Space X Dragon capsule: image spacetourismnow.com

PhysOrg

“SpaceX has been hard at work preparing for our next flight — a mission designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS),” the company, also called Space Exploration Technologies, said in a statement.

The mission is the second to be carried out by SpaceX, one of a handful of firms competing to make a spaceship to replace the now-defunct US shuttle, which had been used to carry supplies and equipment to the orbiting outpost.

“NASA has given us a November 30, 2011 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon berthing at the ISS,” the company said.

It said the arrival of the vessel at the space station would herald “the beginning of a new era in space travel.”

“Together, government and the private sector can simultaneously increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel, while greatly reducing the costs,” SpaceX said.

The company won $75 million in new seed money earlier this year, after it became the first to successfully send its own space capsule, the gumdrop-shaped Dragon, into orbit and back in December 2010.

Hayabusa particles could be extraterrestrial

October 10, 2010

I posted earlier on the return of the ion engine powered Hayabusa.

Hayabusa started its journey in 2003 and met up with the asteroid Itokawa in 2005. The plan was to fire small metal projectiles at the asteroid to generate small pea size samples of the asteroid. This plan failed when the projectile firing device failed to function. After a long journey the spacecraft returned to Earth in June this year.

The sample capsule released by the Hayabusa asteroid probe. (Mainichi)

The sample capsule released by the Hayabusa asteroid probe. (Mainichi)

 

Though the inner capsule had no mm sized particles as hoped, some dust was found in the sealed container. Until recently, many of the fine particles found in the capsule had been believed to be aluminum powder or dust that had slipped into the capsule on Earth during manufacturing or Hayabusa’s launch reports the Mainichi Daily News.

However, the research team collected some 100 particles that are smaller than 0.001 millimeters in size from the inner cylinder of the capsule, called the “sample catcher,” and concluded some of them may be cosmic materials. The particles, which are invisible to the human eye, were collected by remote control using a special Teflon spatula — about 6 millimeters long and 3 millimeters wide — and examined with an electron microscope. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to further analyze the samples by splitting each particle and examining their crystal structure at Spring 8, a large-scale synchrotron radiation facility in Hyogo Prefecture, starting next month to determine where they are from. The procedure may also provide new information on the birth of the solar system.

“We cannot yet tell (whether the particles are from Itokawa) from their external features, but we have found many particles and there is a chance (that they are extraterrestrial),” said Munetaka Ueno, a researcher at JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

Today Mainichi reports that:

Rocky particles (circled) are seen on the tip of a spatula used to scrape materials off of the sample capsule. (Photo courtesy of JAXA).

Rocky particles (circled) are seen on the tip of a spatula used to scrape materials off of the sample capsule. (Photo courtesy of JAXA).

The particles in a sample capsule released by the Hayabusa asteroid probe on its return to Earth were largely rocky materials, researchers have announced. At a lecture of the Japanese Society for Planetary Sciences in Nagoya on Oct. 8, a team of researchers released electron micrographs of the particles that were retrieved from the capsule, reporting that most of them were rocky.

According to the research team, including experts from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), they have detected at least 100 particles from the capsule, with most of them measuring less than 0.001 millimeters in size.

Since the rocky particles are diverse in composition, researchers will further inspect them at SPring-8, a large synchrotron radiation facility in Sayo, Hyogo Prefecture, to determine if they are terrestrial or from the asteroid Itokawa.

Chang’e-2 enters penultimate lunar orbit

October 8, 2010

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/sci/2010-10/08/c_13547437.htm

China’s second unmanned lunar probe, Chang’e-2, has successfully completed its second braking at perilune on Friday, which decelerated the satellite and allowed it to enter a 3.5-hour orbit, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

Chang’e-2, following instructions from the center, started the second braking at 10:45 a.m. and entered the 3.5-hour elliptical moon orbit 17 minutes later, said Ma Yongping, vice-director of the BACC.

The second braking was to decelerate the satellite to prepare it for the final braking and its entering the designed 118-minute working orbit, Ma said.

Previous posts on Chang’e-2

http://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/change-2-starts-transmitting-data-from-lunar-orbit/

http://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/change-2-enters-12-hour-lunar-orbit/

http://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/change-2-mission-on-track/

http://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/chinas-second-moon-probe-change-2-to-launch-this-weekend/

Chang’e-2 starts transmitting data from lunar orbit

October 8, 2010

 

Chang'e-2 lunar probe: Credit: CNSA

 

Chang’e-2 remains on track and the scond orbit correction planned for Sunday may not be necessary.

From the Beijing Review:

All scientific exploration equipment has begun operation on China’s new lunar probe,Chang’e-2. The instruments that collect information about the space environment between the Earth and the Moon have sent back their first batch of data. The ground control center received the first readings from Chang’e-2 early Tuesday morning. The equipment on board detects a wide array of information such as gamma radiation levels.

The control center has confirmed that all instruments are working correctly.

The center announced that the second correction of Chang’e-2‘s orbit has been cancelled, as data proves the satellite is travelling strictly to plan following the first correction.

Experts said the satellite might change its orbit slightly due to the influence of the atmosphere and cosmic environment. Timely correction is therefore needed to prevent Chang’e-2 from deviating from its designed orbit.

The probe went through its first trajectory correction 17 hours after its successful launch. According to the original plan, the second correction would have been on Sunday. The control center is now watching closely for the timing of its next orbit correction. It’s the first time a Chinese lunar probe has directly entered an Earth-Moon transfer orbit without orbiting the Earth first.

Chang’e-2 satellite was launched just before 7 p.m. on October 1, inaugurating China’s second phase of a three-step moon mission, which will eventually culminate in a soft landing on the Moon.

From Spaceflight Now:

Chang’e 2 will map candidate landing sites for the next mission in China’s lunar program, which targets a robotic touchdown on the moon after launch in 2013. Another project in China’s long-term plans is a vehicle to return soil and rock from the moon back to Earth.

After its $134 million baseline mission at the moon is finished, Xinhua reports Chang’e 2 could enter an extended phase.

Officials are considering three scenarios for Chang’e 2’s overtime, including sending the spacecraft away from the moon and into deep space, giving Chinese engineers practice in operations further from Earth. The satellite’s propellant could also return Chang’e 2 to Earth orbit, according to Huang Jiangchuan, a chief designer quoted in Xinhua.

Chang’e 2 could also continue circling the moon, relaying more science data before attempting a landing or impact on the surface, officials said.

Chang’e 1 was deliberately crashed into the moon at the end of its mission in March 2009.



Chang’e-2 enters 12 hour lunar orbit

October 6, 2010

Chang’e-2 enters 12 hour lunar orbit

China’s second unmanned lunar probe  Chang’e-2, completed its first braking Wednesday, which decelerated the spacecraft and successfully allowed it to enter a 12-hour orbit, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC). Chang’e-2, following instructions from the center, started the first braking at 11:06 a.m. and entered the 12-hour elliptical moon orbit 32 minutes later. It was the first braking for Chang’e-2. The space- probe needs to brake another two times before it can enter the designed 118-minute working orbit. The braking “laid a solid foundation” for Chang’e-2 to carry out scientific explorations in its final orbit, BACC said in a press release.

Compared with Chang’e-1, it is more challenging for Chang’e-2 to brake as it must do so at a closer distance to the moon and at a higher speed. A Long-March-3C carrier rocket carried Chang’e-2 into space blasting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, at about 7 p.m. Friday.

To acquire more detailed moon data, Chang’e-2 will enter a lower lunar orbit about 100 km above the surface, compared with the 200-km altitude of Chang’e-1, according to the control center. Before its first braking, the lunar probe had traveled nearly 350,000 km.

Screen shows the virtual animation of the first braking of Chang'e II lunar probe in Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 6, 2010. China's second unmanned lunar probe, Chang'e II, completed its first braking Wednesday, which decelerated the satellite and successfully made it enter a 12-hour orbit, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. (Xinhua/Tian Zhaoyun) (xzj)

Cheng'e - 2 enters 12 hour lunar borbit

Two satellites into orbit

In other news today a Long March 4B rocket carrying two satellites of the “Shijian VI-04″ group lifted off from the launch pad in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, Oct. 6, 2010. The satellites which have entered their space orbits will carry out probes on space environment and radiation and conduct space science experiments, according to the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Russian hotel enters space tourism race

September 30, 2010

Virgin Galactic

In 2007, Genesis II, an experimental spacecraft designed to test the viability of a space hotel, was successfully sent into orbit by Bigelow Aerospace. Boeing have announced that they will be able to take tourists into space in 5 years.

The Galactic Suite

Virgin Atlantic has announced its intention to begin redeeming tickets on commercial space flights within the next 18 months – by some time in early 2012. In 2009 the Barcelona-based developers of The Galactic Suite Space Resort said their orbiting hotel was on target to accept its first paying guests by 2012.

Today the BBC reported that a Russian company has unveiled an ambitious plan to launch a “cosmic hotel” for wealthy space tourists. Orbital Technologies says its “comfortable” four-room guest house could be in orbit by 2016, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports. Guests would be ferried to the hotel on a Soyuz shuttle of the type used to transport cosmonauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The new hotel would offer greater comforts, according to Sergei Kostenko, chief executive of Orbital Technologies. “Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes,” he told RIA Novosti.

It is not clear how the “cosmic hotel” would be built, but the company’s website names Energia, Russia’s state-controlled spacecraft manufacturer, as the project’s general contractor. Energia builds the Soyuz capsules and Progress cargo ships which deliver crew and supplies to the ISS.

“Houston, We have a problem”: Astronauts abort return to Earth

September 24, 2010

Update!

25.10.2010 – 0635 CET

Astronauts undocked successfully and are due to touchdown at 09:22 this morning.

(Reuters) -

Two Russians and a U.S. astronaut aborted a return to Earth on Friday when their space capsule failed to separate from the International Space Station. “This situation has never occurred before,” a spokeswoman at Russian Mission Control near Moscow said, as space officials scrambled to determine the cause.

International Space Station

NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and two Russian crew mates climbed into a Soyuz capsule hitched to the station for the descent, but latches holding the craft to a docking port failed to open, the spokeswoman said.

Russia’s space agency chief Anatoly Perminov told reporters at Mission Control that Dyson, Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Korniyenko’s return to Earth after nearly six months in space had been rescheduled for Saturday.

The docking mechanism did not function because the station’s computer sent a false signal indicating the hatch between station and capsule was not fully sealed, Perminov said. He said technicians had found no problem with the seals, and suggested they were still puzzling over exactly went wrong.

A second undocking attempt “could have gone ahead today, but we need additional time to make sure we have reliable information about the problem,” Perminov told a terse news conference at Mission Control. “There is no point in rushing,” he said. Perminov refused to take questions, saying he did not want to fuel rumors.

Russian Mission Control and the U.S. space agency NASA’s Mission Control in Houston agreed the three crew members would go back to the space station and await a fresh undocking attempt on Saturday, NASA said. Three other crew members, Russian Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker, would remain aboard the station as planned after Saturday’s departure. “I see no technical problem on the station or anywhere that would threaten the crew,” Perminov said. Another Russian space agency official, Alexei Krasnov, said the landing should now take place on Saturday at about 9:20 a.m.

Skvortsov, Korniyenko and Dyson boarded the space station on April 4 after a flight up together in the Soyuz TMA-18 craft, which will also be used for their return to Earth.

Fingers crossed for the next attempt on Saturday.

“You left spacedock without a tractor beam?”: Mysterious force holds back NASA probes

September 19, 2010

Star Trek Generations

Star Trek Generations:

Kirk: You left spacedock without a tractor beam?
Harriman: It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday.

The Telegraph:

A space probe launched 30 years ago has come under the influence of a mysterious force that has baffled scientists and could rewrite the laws of physics. Researchers say Pioneer 10, which took the first close-up pictures of Jupiter before leaving our solar system in 1983, is being pulled back to the sun by an unknown force. The effect shows no sign of getting weaker as the spacecraft travels deeper into space, and scientists are considering the possibility that the probe has revealed a new force of nature.

Tractorbeam arriving on Tuesday

“If the effect is real, it will have a big impact on cosmology and spacecraft navigation,” said Dr Laing, of the Aerospace Corporation of California. Pioneer 10 was launched by Nasa on March 2 1972, and with Pioneer 11, its twin, revolutionised astronomy with detailed images of Jupiter and Saturn. In June 1983, Pioneer 10 passed Pluto, the most distant planet in our solar system.

pt:Trajectória da sonda Pioneer 10 em Jupiter

Pioneer 10 trajectory

Research to be published shortly in The Physical Review, a leading physics journal, will show that the speed of the two probes is being changed by about 6 mph per century – a barely-perceptible effect about 10 billion times weaker than gravity.

Assertions by some scientists that the force is due to a quirk in the Pioneer probes have also been discounted by the discovery that the effect seems to be affecting Galileo and Ulysses, two other space probes still in the solar system. Data from these two probes suggests the force is of the same strength as that found for the Pioneers.

Dr Duncan Steel, a space scientist at Salford University, says even such a weak force could have huge effects on a cosmic scale. “It might alter the number of comets that come towards us over millions of years, which would have consequences for life on Earth. It also raises the question of whether we know enough about the law of gravity.”

Son of Hubble — getting expensive

September 18, 2010

Successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope is now slated for launch in 2014. The $5 billion mission is once again plagued by cost overruns.

Science News reports:

How can astronomers advise NASA on how to trim the costs of developing missions if no one will tell them how much the costliest mission of all, the James Webb Space Telescope, is running over budget?

That’s what Alan Boss, chair of the independent NASA Astrophysics Subcommittee, would like to know. When the subcommittee met in Washington, D.C., on September 16 and 17, Boss and his colleagues already knew that the $5 billion infrared space observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor now set for launch in 2014, was once again in need of a monetary transfusion.

What Boss wanted to know was how much. But no one in room 3H46 at NASA headquarters was willing to talk dollars and sense — when Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., asked if anyone in the room could cite a dollar figure, his question was met with a silence as deep as any in the vast empty reaches of intergalactic space.

Fear of making a huge and embarrassing error like the one that produced Hubble Space Telescope’s infamously misshapen primary mirror may be causing JWST scientists and engineers to go overboard and do too much testing, Weiler said. The comprehensive report on JWST due next month, led by John Casani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will cite instances where engineers on the mission may be overzealous in testing equipment.

JWST gobbles up about 40 percent of NASA’s astrophysics science budget.


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