SpaceX’s rocket just exploded. Here’s why that’s such a big deal.


SpaceX’s unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Sunday but exploded a few minutes after liftoff. It was on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. (NASA)

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded a couple of minutes after liftoff Sunday morning. It was the third cargo mission to the space station to be lost in recent months.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder tweeted that “there was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.” He added: “That’s all we can say with confidence right now. Will have more to say following a thorough” analysis.

NASA officials said it was not clear what caused the explosion. During an afternoon press conference William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said there was “no negligence here.”

The three failures from three different launch providers show “the challenges facing engineering and the challenges facing space flight in general.”

The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 10:21 a.m., and everything seemed fine until 2 minutes at 19 seconds. Then video of the launch showed harrowing, if now familiar, images of a rocket exploding into a plume of smoke. The Falcon 9 was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of food and supplies to the space station, where American Scott Kelly is spending a year. There were no astronauts onboard.

The explosion also lost many student experiments and a water filtration system. Also onboard was a piece of hardware that would be used to help two new crew vehicles dock to the station.

Source : Wahshington Post

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NASA to Send Microsoft’s Virtual Reality Headset to International Space Station


NASA is sending Microsoft’s virtual reality headset to the International Space Station (ISS) to beam back to Earth what astronauts see in space.

NASA and Microsoft are teaming up to develop Sidekick, a new project using commercial technology to empower astronauts aboard the ISS.

Sidekick uses Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth.

A pair of the devices is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station on June 28.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS programme at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars,” said Mr Scimemi.

The goal of Sidekick is to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said Alex Kipman, technical fellow, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.

NASA and Microsoft engineers tested Project Sidekick and the Microsoft HoloLens aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet to ensure they function as expected in free-fall in advance of their delivery to the microgravity environment of the space station.

Sidekick has two modes of operation. The first is “Remote Expert Mode,” which uses Skype to allow a ground operator to see what a crew member sees, provide real-time guidance, and draw annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task.

Until now, crew members have relied on written and voice instructions when performing complex repair tasks or experiments.

The second mode is “Procedure Mode,” which augments standalone procedures with animated holographic illustrations displayed on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting.

This capability could lessen the amount of training that future crews will require and could be an invaluable resource for missions deep into our solar system, where communication delays complicate difficult operations.

Source : NDTV

Spectacular Images and Video of India From the International Space Station


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Pictures and footage of India taken from space show the country by night and day as seen from the International Space Station, including a spectacular lightning storm.

The images were taken by Terry Virts, the commander of the current project, Expedition 43, at the space station and tweeted from his verified account.

A one-year joint mission between space agencies in the United States, Russia and Europe, began on Mar. 11, 2015 and is in its final days. Astronauts are expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

The six-member crew have been conducting astrophysics research, physical science investigations and technology demonstrations, but no space walks.

Two of the crew, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korneinko, have spent the entire year in space and have undergone medical studies to help further scientific advancements on Earth. Other astronauts were rotated in at the end of Expedition 42 in December.

Check out some other Amzing Pictures of India From space taken by Terry Virts

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com

Eye of Super Typhoon Maysak Looks “Like a Black Hole” from Space


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Maysak, a category 4 Super Typhoon, as photographed by astronaut Terry Virts on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts.

From his perch on the International Space Station, astronaut Terry Virts has been taking some beautiful photos of Earth and space and sharing them on social media.

“Looking down into the eye – by far the widest one I’ve seen,” he tweeted. “It seemed like a black hole from a Sci-Fi movie.”

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According to AccuWeather.com, Super Typhoon Maysak is one of the strongest cyclones in history during the months of January, February and March. It has slammed several Micronesian islands, killing 5 people, and is now on its way to the Philippines. As of early on April 1, Maysak had sustained winds of 240 kph (150 mph), equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. Gusts as high as 390 kph (180 mph) are possible with this storm.

The typhoon is expected to weaken, but still poses a threat to the islands in its path:

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Source : Universe Today

China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space


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China plans to build a huge solar power station 36,000 kilometres above the ground in an attempt to battle smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve energy crisis, much on the lines of an idea first floated in 1941 by fiction writer Isaac Asimov, state media reported today.

If realised, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station, and be the largest-ever space project.

The power station would be a super spacecraft on a geosynchronous orbit equipped with huge solar panels. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

In 1941, American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov had published a short story “Reason”, in which a space station transmits energy collected from the sun using microwave beams.

Wang Xiji, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an International Academy of Astronautics member, says Asimov’s fiction has a scientific basis.

After devoting over 50 years to space technology research, Wang, 93, is an advocate for the station: “An economically viable space power station would be really huge, with the total area of the solar panels reaching 5 to 6 sq km.”

That would be equivalent to 12 of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, or nearly two New York Central Parks. “Maybe people on Earth could see it in the sky at night, like a star,” says Wang.

Wang says the electricity generated from the ground-based solar plants fluctuates with night and day and the weather, but a space generator collects energy 99 per cent of the time.

Space-based solar panels can generate ten times as much electricity as ground-based panels per unit area, says Duan Baoyan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

“If we have space solar power technology, hopefully we could solve the energy crisis on Earth,” Duan said.

Wang says whoever obtains the technology first “could occupy the future energy market. So it’s of great strategic significance.”

Countries such as the US and Japan have studied space solar power station. Japan leads the development of wireless power transmission technology. However, many hurdles lie ahead: A commercially viable space power station would weigh 10,000 tons. But few rockets can carry a payload of over 100 tons to low Earth orbit.

Continue reading China Plans to Build a Solar Power Station in Space

NASA is working with Russia on a new space station


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Astronauts Repairing Space Module

Russia is teaming up with the USA to build ISS 2.0 once the current one’s funding runs out in 2024 — at least according to Russia Today and state news agency TASS. The country’s space agency, Roscosmos threatened in February to use the Russian ISS modules as a platform for a new base of its own after 2024, but now it looks like there will be a followup collaboration.

This time around, both parties are looking for participation from other countries, as well as private industry, and are apparently even eyeing a team-up for potential missions to Mars. Russian news outlets report the announcement came during a news conference Saturday following the launch of a year-long mission (video of the launch and subsequent ISS docking is embedded after the break) to the current International Space Station.

NASA Statement –

We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 — a priority of ours — and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA’s history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking. Today we remain focused on full use of our current science laboratory in orbit and research from the exciting one-year mission astronaut Scott Kelly just began, which will help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight.

Chief Komarov, who was there for the US-Russia year-long ISS mission launch, reportedly said: “We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station.” In addition to building a new ISS, sources say the agency’s partnership also entail working on a joint Mars mission. In the same event, NASA chief Charles Bolden is quoted saying: “Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication.”

So far NASA hasn’t announced or confirmed anything through its official channels. We’ve contacted the agency for comment and will update this post if we hear anything.

Source : engadget.com

Russia to create joint orbital station with India, China


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Russia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July.

“Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said.

The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported.

The proposal comes after months of speculation that the crisis in Ukraine would doom U.S.-Russia space cooperation. For two decades this effort has largely been focused on the International Space Station project (ISS), which is due to end in 2020. NASA has proposed extending it to 2024, but Russia has suggested it might duck out and instead build its own space station — possibly with the participation of China.

The BRICS project would be roughly analogous to the ISS, a $150 billion project involving 15 nations. Anchored by the United States and Russia, the world’s leading spacefaring powers, the ISS allows countries with less advanced spaceflight capabilities to either join onto the station’s Russian and American segments or contribute smaller segments.

A BRICS space station would likely emerge from a similar two-nation partnership, again with Russia in a driver’s seat. The Military-Industrial Commission recommended approaching either China or India — both countries that have well-developed and increasingly ambitious space programs. The proposal would then allow other BRICS members to join.

India has yet to put a man in space without hitching rides on other nations’ rockets. Last year, it demonstrated its rising capabilities after launching an unmanned satellite to Mars on a shoestring budget.

China is perhaps the best partner for such a project. China already launches its own astronauts into space, and is designing its own medium-sized space station. The placement of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East also makes close cooperation with China far easier.

Source : Times Of India , TheMoscowTimes

SpaceX, Boeing on Track to Take Astronauts to Space Station by 2017


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The agency will use the partnership to end dependency on Russia

SpaceX has completed the first certification milestone in its CCP commitment, and will spend much of 2015 testing abort solutions for its formerly cargo-only Dragon capsule. (Abort procedures are more critical in crewed missions.) A launchpad abort will be tested in the next two months at Cape Canaveral, and an in-flight abort test will follow “later this year,” according to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. Uncrewed missions to the ISS with the new capsule will start in 2016, and the company is still working out the makeup of its first test flight crew.

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“I DON’T EVER WANT TO HAVE TO WRITE ANOTHER CHECK TO ROSCOSMOS.”

The company is also working on outfitting its Dragon capsule with propulsive landing, Shotwell said, which could improve reusability by dispensing with the need to splash down in water. Instead, the capsule would land right at Johnson Space Center, using rockets on the bottom to help control the descent. That’s not the only new technology the company is working on. It hopes to outfit its Falcon 9 rockets with wings and retrorockets so they can land on autonomous barges in the ocean.

Boeing has completed the first two certification milestones for its CST-100 spacecraft. NASA has signed off on parts of its commercial crew operation, including designs for the control center, training systems, flight simulators, and software. Boeing has also started building its crew access tower on the Atlas V launchpad, and that construction will continue in between uncrewed Atlas V launches.

The CST-100 will undergo a critical design review in March, and if approved, will let the company launch “full-bore” into manufacturing, according to VP and General Manager of Boeing Space Exploration John Elbon. Boeing’s spacecraft can fit up to seven crew members, and is also being designed with reusability in mind. According to Elbon, the plan is for the capsule to be recovered, refurbished, and reused up to 10 times.

When asked how this all fits in with the 2016 budget, Bolden said he’s “very optimistic.” “Congress has, I think, kind of started to understand the critical importance of commercial crew and cargo. They’ve seen, as a result of the performance of our providers, that this is not a hoax. It’s not a myth. It’s not a dream,” he said. “It’s something that really is happening.”

Source : theverge

U.S. and Russian Astronauts to Spend One Year on the ISS


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In another U.S. and Russian joint mission, American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend 12 months on the International Space Station starting this March, confirms NASA.

During their one year stay in the ISS, Kelly and Kornienko will perform seven research experiments to aid scientists gather significant knowledge on the biomedical, psychological and medical challenges faced by astronauts in long-term space flight.

Among other things, scientists will study differences in vision, functionality, mental health, metabolic processes and physical performance separately from behavioral changes and motor performance.

Another set of tests will be conducted on Kelly and Astronaut Mark Kelly, Scott Kelly’s twin brother and also an astronaut who will stay on Earth.

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“These investigations will provide broader insight into the subtle effects and changes that may occur in spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments for one year,” NASA said in a statement.

Mark Kelly’s experience includes piloting Space Transportation System 108 (Endeavour), STS-124 (Discovery Commander) and STS-134 (Endeavour Commander).

Scott Kelly was a crewman of STS-103 in 1999; STS-118 in 2007 and a 159-day stay on the ISS starting on October 7, 2010.
It’s going to be a strangely extensive space mission since a typical NASA mission to the ISS lasts no more than six months.

Source : full-timewhistle.com

Russian Cargo Ship Lifts Off For Space Station


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An unmanned Russian cargo ship successfully lifted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on October 29.

The Progress 57 craft was launched atop a Soyuz rocket at 8:09 a.m. Prague time from the Russian-leased Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan.

“Everything looks good on the Soyuz booster and the Progress resupply ship,” an announcer on the U.S. space agency’s NASA TV said.

The launch came nine hours after a privately operated rocket exploded seconds after liftoff in the United States, causing the loss of cargo ship that was also bound for the ISS.

The explosion of the Antares was the first such accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the station, breaking a Russian monopoly that followed the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Progress is delivering nearly three metric tons of propellant, oxygen, water, and other supplies to the station.