VIRGIN GALACTIC REACHES NEW HEIGHTS IN THIRD SUPERSONIC TEST FLIGHT

VIRGIN GALACTIC

MOJAVE, Calif. – Today, Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, which is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, successfully completed the third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). In command on the flight deck of SS2 for the first time under rocket power was Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay. Mackay, along with Scaled Composites’ (Scaled) Test Pilot Mark Stucky, tested the spaceship’s Reaction Control System (RCS) and the newly installed thermal protection coating on the vehicle’s tail booms. All of the test objectives were successfully completed.

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Launch of Maven Nov.18, 2013

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The $671 Million MAVEN spacecraft separated from the Atlas Centaur upper stage some 52 minutes after liftoff, unfurled its wing like solar panels to produce life giving power and thus began a 10 month .“We’re currently about 14,000 miles away from Earth and heading out to the Red Planet right now,” said MAVEN Project Manager David Mitchell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at the briefing, after the 5,400-pound spacecraft had been soaring through space for barely two and a half hours.“The first trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) is set for Dec. 3,” added Mitchell. There are a minimum of four TCM’s to ensure that the majestic probe remains precisely.

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New Science, NASA Cargo Launches to Space Station Aboard Orbital-1 Mission

The Antares rocket

Another NASA commercial space partner officially has begun contracted cargo flights to the International Space Station. Dozens of new NASA investigations and other science experiments from across the country are headed to the station aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus spacecraft as part of the agency’s commercial partnerships with U.S. aerospace companies.

The launch aboard Orbital’s Antares rocket took place from NASA’s Wallop’s Flight Facility in Virginia Thursday, at 1:07 p.m. EST.

The Orbital-1 mission began the company’s first contracted cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.9 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. Orbital will fly at least eight cargo missions to the space station through 2016.

“Today’s launch demonstrates how our strategic investments in the American commercial spaceflight industry are helping create new jobs here at home and keep the United States the world leader in space exploration,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said...

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NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter set to launch on Nov. 18

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Ken Kremer - www.kenkremer.com for  space-site.com – 15 Oct  2013

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL, USA – MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission) is NASA’s next mission to Mars.   It is scheduled to lift off on Nov. 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on an Atlas V 401 rocket.  The 903 kilogram (2000 pound) probe will arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014 after a 10 month interplanetary voyage.

It is the first spacecraft from Earth devoted to investigating and understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars. The purpose is determining how and why Mars lost virtually all of its atmosphere billions of years ago and what effect that had on the climate.

“MAVENS’s goal is determining the composition of the ancient Martian atmosphere and when it was lost, where did all the water go and how and when was it lost,” said Bruce Jakosky in an interview at the Kennedy Space Center.  Jakosky, of CU-Boulder, is the MAVEN Principal Investigator.

Scientists hope measurements from...

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NASA’s Hubble Sees Comet ISON Intact

comet-ison

A new image of the sunward plunging comet ISON suggests that the comet is intact despite some predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the sun warms it. The comet will pass closest to the sun on Nov. 28.

In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image taken on Oct. 9, the comet’s solid nucleus is unresolved because it is so small. If the nucleus broke apart then Hubble would have likely seen evidence for multiple fragments.

Moreover, the coma or head surrounding the comet’s nucleus is symmetric and smooth. This would probably not be the case if clusters of smaller fragments were flying along. What’s more, a polar jet of dust first seen in Hubble images taken in April is no longer visible and may have turned off.

This color composite image was assembled using two filters. The comet’s coma appears cyan, a greenish-blue color due to gas, while the tail is reddish due to dust streaming off the nucleus...

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Water on Mars

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Last month NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity measured a high percentage of water in the surface soil of Mars. As the Mars One astronauts will be settling on Mars indefinitely, the availability of enough water at the location of the settlement is essential. For this reason, the exact location will be primarily based on the water content in the soil.

Will the astronauts have enough water, food and oxygen?

Our astronauts will be settling on Mars indefinitely. It’s not feasible to send water, oxygen and food from Earth to the astronauts: they will produce those on Mars.

Water

On Mars, water can be extracted from the soil. The Rover will select the location for the settlement primarily based on the water content in the soil. We expect this to be at a latitude of between 40 and 45 degrees North. Water extraction will be performed by the life support units. The Rover will deposit soil into a water extractor in the life support units...

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Galactic bubble

The Galactic bubble

Nestled within the shell around this large bubble is an embryonic star that is already a hefty eight times more massive than our Sun.

This image, by ESA’s Herschel space observatory, was originally presented in the first announcement of scientific results  from the mission in May 2010.

This week Herschel scientists will meet again at ESA’s ESTEC establishment in the Netherlands to present, discuss, and take stock of the scientific breakthroughs of the entire mission at The Universe Explored by Herschel symposium.

The Galactic bubble shown in this image was just one of many surprising results of the mission.

It is about 4300 light-years away and has been blown by a star at its centre. The star is not visible at these infrared wavelengths but pushes on the surrounding dust and gas with nothing more than the power of its starlight.

Read more at ESA

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GOCE completes mission

GOCE in orbit

After nearly tripling its planned lifetime, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer – GOCE – is nearing its end of mission and will soon reenter our atmosphere.

With a sleek, aerodynamic design responsible for it being dubbed the ‘Ferrari of space’, GOCE has mapped variations in Earth’s gravity with extreme detail. Scientists further exploited these data to create the first global high-resolution map of the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle – called the Moho – and to detect sound waves from the massive earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, among other results.

In mid-October, the mission will come to a natural end when it runs out of fuel and the satellite begins its descent towards Earth from a height of about 224 km.

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ESA’s test rover begins exploring Atacama Desert

SAFER rover's first tracks in Atacama Desert

ESA’s test rover has been fitted with scientific instruments  and made its first tracks in the sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert. Meanwhile, team members have explored the area to select a suitable site for testing, flying a drone to produce an aerial map.

This week’s Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover, or SAFER, field trial is gaining experience in remotely operating a Mars rover prototype equipped with scientific instruments.

ESA has assembled an international industrial team for the trial, which takes place in the Mars-like Atacama, one of the driest places on Earth.

“During the past few days we have been busy preparing for the actual trial,” explains Michel van Winnendael, overseeing the testing for ESA. “A number of sites have been visited, based on guidance provided by Chilean geologist Prof. Guillermo Chong.

“Our team geologist Derek Pullan of the University of Leicester has been exploring the area looking for similar sites to the kind of martian locatio...

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ESA and NASA stumped by cosmic mystery

Malargüe station today

A mystery that has stumped scientists for decades might be one step closer to solution after ESA tracking stations carefully record signals from NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it swings by Earth today.

NASA’s deep-space probe will zip past to within 561 km at 19:21 GMT as it picks up a gravitational speed boost to help it reach Jupiter in 2016.

During the high-speed event, radio signals from the 3225 kg Juno will be carefully recorded by ESA tracking stations in Argentina and Australia.

Engineers hope that the new measurements will unravel the decades-old ‘flyby anomaly’ – an unexplained variation in spacecraft speeds detected during some swingbys.

“We detected the flyby anomaly during Rosetta’s first Earth visit in March 2005,” says Trevor Morley, flight dynamics expert at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

“Frustratingly, no anomaly was seen during Rosetta’s subsequent Earth flybys in 2007 and 2011...

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