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

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

NASA and SpaceX targeting Dec. 19 for next Space Station Launch


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ISS under construction (Click Image to Download)

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Dec. 19 as the launch date for the next unmanned cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The fifth SpaceX cargo mission was postponed from Dec. 16 to Dec. 19 to “allow SpaceX to take extra time to ensure they do everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch,” according to a statement from NASA.

The Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40 is slated to launch on Dec. 19, 2014 on the CRS-5 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Both the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon spacecraft are in good health, according to NASA.

The mission dubbed SpaceX CRS-5 is slated for liftoff at 1:20 p.m.

An on time liftoff will result in a rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday. The crew would grapple the Dragon with the stations 57 foot long robotic arm at about 6 a.m.

See more at : Universe Today

‘Space plane’ readies for launch


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(Click image to Download) The Intermediate experimental Vehicle. Photo: ESA 

Europe’s first-ever “space plane” will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace says after a three-month delay to fine-tune the flight plan.

The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe’s Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle.

Dubbed IXV, for Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, the plane will be boosted from Europe’s space pad in Kourou, French Guiana, and separate from its launcher at an altitude of 320 kilometres.

The European Space Agency website says it will attain an altitude of around 450k kilometres before re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 kilometres – representative of a return mission from low orbit.

The vessel is expected to collect data on its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases, before plunging into the Pacific Ocean with a parachute.

The initial launch had been scheduled for November 18, but Arianespace in October announced a postponement “to carry out additional flight trajectory analyses”.

“Based on joint work by ESA [the European Space Agency] and CNES [the French space agency], the date for the IXV mission to be launched by Vega has been set for February 11, 2015,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Developed over five years at a cost of 150 million euros ($225 million), the IXV is the testbed for a reusable vehicle that may one day be able to land on a conventional runway on Earth after a mission to space.

This could be useful for bringing astronauts back from the International Space Station (ISS).

The only craft currently able to ferry astronauts to the ISS and back is Russia’s Soyuz.

Last month saw two major setbacks for the space industry.

On October 28, an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded shortly after launch on what was to be a supply mission to the ISS, followed three days later by the crash of Virgin Galactic tourist space plane SpaceShipTwo on a test flight, killing one of two pilots.

Source : smh

NASA Takes Stunning Image of Florida Nighttime Coast


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The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. (NASA image)

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Florida in October 2014. The peninsula is highly recognizable even at night, especially when looking roughly north, as our map-trained brains expect.

Illuminated areas give a strong sense of the size of cities. The brightest continuous patch of lights is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the southeastern U.S. and home to 5.6 million people.

The next largest area is the Tampa Bay region (2.8 million people) on the Gulf Coast of the peninsula. Orlando, located in the middle, has a somewhat smaller footprint (2.3 million). A nearly straight line of cities runs nearly 560 kilometers (350 miles) along the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Florida, to Wilmington, North Carolina.

South of Orlando, the center and southern portions of the peninsula are as dark as the Atlantic Ocean, vividly illustrating the almost population-free Everglades wetland.

The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. Dim lights of the Florida Keys extend the arc of the Atlantic coast to the corner of the image. The small cluster of lights far offshore is Freeport on Grand Bahama Island (image right). The faint blue areas throughout the image are clouds lit by moonlight.

Source : spacecoastdaily