Tag: Rockets

ULA’s Delta, Atlas, And Vulcan Rockets – The Past And Future Of Space Travel

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United Launch Alliance, or ULA, was formed in 2006 but their pedigree goes back to the earliest days of the United States space program. Their Delta and Atlas rockets pioneered both manned and commercial flight, and their Vulcan rocket will lead them into the future.

Space Crew Survives Plunge To Earth After Russian Rocket Fails

A Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut were safe on Thursday after a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the U.S. space agency NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.




The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

The Soyuz capsule carrying Ovchinin and Hague separated from the malfunctioning Russian rocket and plunged 31 miles (50 km) down to the surface, with parachutes helping to slow its speed, NASA said.

A cloud of sand billowed up as the capsule landed after what NASA called a 34-minute steep ballistic descent.

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, with their arms and legs flailing. Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Who Is SpaceX’s Mystery Moon Passenger?

The moon is essentially grey, no color. Looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand.

This was how Jim Lovell described the lunar surface in 1968 from his perch about 60 miles above the moon.

Lovell and his fellow NASA astronauts never touched down, but they returned to Earth with memories of what was, at the time, the closest view a human being had ever experienced of the planet’s rocky companion.

Nearly 50 years after the Apollo 8 mission, SpaceX wants to give someone that view again.

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company announced Thursday that it will send a private passenger to fly around the moon on its next launch system, the Big Falcon Rocket. The voyage is “an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space,” SpaceX said on Twitter.

SpaceX did not give a potential launch date or other details, but those may come Monday night, when the company said it would reveal the identity of the passenger.

This gives us a full weekend to speculate, and speculate we will. Because this trip, if it indeed moves forward—SpaceX previously announced and scrapped a similar plan—would make history.

And not because the voyage would be developed, funded, and operated by a commercial company, rather than NASA, but because the passenger is probably unlike anyone who has made the journey before.

Only 24 people have been to the moon. They were all American, male, and white.

So, who could this mystery moon traveler be?




In February of last year, SpaceX announced it would send two paying customers on a trip around the moon aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket sometime in 2018.

The plan never materialized, likely because Musk eventually decided not to certify the Heavy for human spaceflight and focused on the development of the BFR instead.

The identities of these private citizens were never revealed, though Musk did say that “it’s nobody from Hollywood.” The passenger SpaceX plans to fly on the BFR may be one of them.

The passenger doesn’t have to be a U.S. citizen.

SpaceX will someday fly Americans, yes, but these will be the astronauts that NASA has chosen to test the company’s crew transportation system, which the space agency wants to use to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Unlike that project, the BFR is not affiliated with or funded by NASA. After the announcement Thursday, when a Twitter user mused whether the lucky passenger may be Musk himself, Musk responded with the emoji for the Japanese flag, prompting some to throw out names of wealthy Japanese individuals with an interest in tech.

Russia, China, and India have all said they hope to put their astronauts on the moon, with India aiming to do so as early as 2022. SpaceX may beat them, and give another country the historic first.

Perhaps the voyage will record another first, for women. The Soviet Union sent the first woman to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. Twenty years later, the United States sent Sally Ride.

As of March of this year, 60 women from nine countries have gone to space, and several of them have made multiple trips, according to NASA. But none have been to the moon.

If this concept becomes reality, the mystery passenger—and the flight engineers picked to accompany them—will have plenty of leg room.

Their experience will be very unlike that of Jim Lovell and his fellow astronauts, who were packed like spacefaring sardines in the lunar module.

The view, however, will be the same. The window will fill up with the slate gray of the moon, with the texture of the ridges and craters of its surface.

And then, as the spaceship circles the moon, the Earth will slink into view from behind it. “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” exclaimed one of the NASA astronauts 60 years ago when he snapped a photograph of that view, the now iconic “Earthrise” shot.

Whomever the mystery SpaceX passenger is, let’s hope they don’t forget to pack a camera.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Everything You Need To Know About China’s Ambitious Space Plans

By 2030, China wants to be a major space power. To achieve that, it’s got some out-of-this-world ideas.

From building its own space station, to capturing an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon, China’s space programme is often depicted as ludicrous and unfeasible. But it would be foolish to overlook its potential.

China is quickly becoming one of the most ambitious and pioneering nations when it comes to exploring space.

Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world,” Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said in January. So what are its plans?

Dark side of the Moon

One of China’s nearest goals is the plan to land a rover on the dark side of the Moon in 2018.

China’s Chang’e 4 mission is the next in line after Chang’e 3, which saw the popular Jade Rabbit lunar rover named after the Chinese Moon goddess. The plan is to study the geology of the Moon’s far side.

As the Moon orbits Earth, it is tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces us.

The far side of the Moon is not always dark, it is illuminated when the side facing the Earth is in darkness; it is just called the dark side of the Moon because we never see it.Landing there would be a significant first.




Asteroid chasing

China plans to visit the asteroid 2010 TK7 in 2026

China made headlines earlier this year when its plans to capture an asteroid were revealed, and somewhat mocked.

The idea of taking an asteroid and putting it in orbit around the Moon was reported by state media, but a detailed description of those specific plans is yet to be published.

However, a new study has revealed what China does plan to do in terms of asteroid chasing.

China’s latest proposal involves studying a chaotic asteroid.

A pair of Chinese researchers has published a paper in Advances in Space Research, outlining a plan to send a spacecraft to the asteroid 2010 TK7, which is on a bizarrely eccentric orbit around the Sun.

The mission will follow in the footsteps of NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft, which had a rendezvous with a comet. The plan is to launch the spacecraft in November 2021, with the manoeuvre happening in August 2025.

Space Station

Drawing of China’s large orbital station.

Not content with sending humans to asteroids, the Moon and Mars, China also plans on building its very own space station.

The first part of the Chinese large modular space station is expected to go into orbit around Earth in 2019 with the final sections in place by 2022.

The station will host three crew members, unlike previous efforts which could not support any crew.

The first Chinese space station, Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Place’ launched in 2011, was only supposed to stay in orbit for two years.

Seven years later, and we are being told the satellite is out of control, and will crash into our planet in the next few months.

In 2011 it was decided China was not allowed to be part of the International Space Station (ISS) collaboration, when the US Congress passed a law saying it was concerned about national security.

An artists’s impression of how China’s Mars rover will look.

The ISS is a joint mission between the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe. Plans to collaborate are continuing, as Nasa and Russia announced a deal to work together building a new space station around the Moon.

But this doesn’t rule China out of the picture completely. “The US-Russian agreement is in principle only,” Logsdon sats. “Neither country has a funded program for such a station yet.

If the Trump administration does fund such a US station, partnerships with many countries, not just Russia, will be sought. The issue then is whether Congress will allow Nasa to work with China.

The future of China’s space exploration is diverse and exciting. With many ambitious plans, and a few failures under its belt, it remains to be seen whether China will meet its ambitious goals.

What is clear, however, is the country is not wasting any time trying to become the leader of the next space race.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

China Plans To Launch Space Exploration Rockets From Sea Freighters And Planes

China is planning to use large sea-going freighters and heavy military transport planes to launch space exploration rockets starting next year.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) will reportedly use 10,000-ton freighters as launch pads for its Long March 11 launch rocket. The Long March 11 can carry up to 1,100 pounds into low-earth orbit.

“Eastern Arsenal” bloggers Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer say the idea is use freighters to fire the rockets near the equator to save on fuel and loft bigger payloads.

The other option is for an airborne launch.




The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced this month that they’re developing a solid-fueled space launch rocket to be dropped from the Y-20, a heavy Chinese military transport plane.

The rocket itself is expected to weigh about 60 tons (the Y-20’s payload is 66 tons) and has a low Earth orbit payload of 220 pounds.

If you’re dropping a rocket from an airplane, as opposed to the launching from ground, the rocket’s first stage can be smaller, which means it’ll be more efficient and could handle a larger payload.

That means greater flexibility and a potentially quicker launch — both considerable military advantages.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

SpaceX Wants To Build One Rocket To Rule Them All

Elon Musk gave a keynote address yesterday to the International Aeronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

During the 43 minute talk, which is embedded above, Musk laid out SpaceX’s future including colonizing Mars and building one rocket to rule them all.




The talk is fantastic. Elon was Elon and revealed countless details about future SpaceX plans. This is why he’s celebrated in certain circles.

He doesn’t hold back whether on Twitter or during interviews. Unlike other Silicon Valley companies, he seemingly keeps fewer details secret and is more willing to talk about things his companies are building.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The “Rockets’ Red Glare” In The Star Spangled Banner Refers Specifically To These Things

Two hundred years ago, the United States and Britain were locked in a savage struggle known as the War of 1812. After Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated in 1814, Britain sent much of its vast military capacity against the United States.

The Duke of Wellington declined the offer of command over the effort, but he did design the British grand strategy: tie down the American forces in the Chesapeake and New Orleans, then deliver the killing stroke down the Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor, thus occupying New York City and severing New England from the rest of the country.




In all three campaigns (as well as others) these technological wonder weapons frightened American soldiers who had never seen the like before.

They were Congreve rockets, an amazing innovation in weapons technology devised by the brilliant British Army engineer William Congreve.

Congreve had served in the Anglo-Mysore War in India and had witnessed the Mysorean forces use rockets effectively against the British.

In 1805, he built and demonstrated one of his own. It was an iron cased black powder rocket on a wooden guide pole. Later versions had incendiary, shrapnel and explosive warheads.

British forces used them successfully throughout the Napoleonic Wars, then sent rocketry units to North America.

After burning Washington, D.C., the British fleet moved on to Baltimore.

Ground forces attacked American fortifications around the city while the Royal Navy attempted to neutralize Fort McHenry, which blocked access to the city’s harbor.

Over the fort flew an enormous American flag that would become known as the Star-Spangled Banner. On the night of Sept. 13-14, the fleet pummeled Fort McHenry with cannon and Congreve’s wonder weapons.

Francis Scott Key, an American prisoner on a British ship, watched the battle. He could see the flag only thanks to the light provided by the Congreve rockets.

That’s why he wrote in what would become America’s national anthem:

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

The bombardment failed, despite William Congreve’s design efforts. But overall, the British were justifiably proud of the weapon’s war record.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

SpaceX Has Launched And Landed Two Falcon 9 Rockets In One Weekend

Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX successfully launched two payloads into orbit over the weekend, and then landed the first-stage booster from each rocket onto one of the company’s drone ships.

Last Friday, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the first telecommunications satellite for the country of Bulgaria from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first stage booster for that rocket which had already been launched, landed, and refurbished once before was successfully maneuvered down for a safe landing on a barge called “Of Course I Still Love You”.




Last Sunday, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located northwest of Los Angeles.

The first stage booster from that rocket was landed on the ship “Just Read the Instructions,” which was floating in the Pacific.

These events marked the fastest turnaround for SpaceX launches from two different sites, according to Spaceflight Now. SpaceX’s continued success with landing and re-using boosters could save the company and its customers millions of dollars.

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Pass it on: New Scientist