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

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

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

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

DON’T FORGET TO SEE NASA ‘S 21th CENTURY SPACE CAPSULE !


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Orion illustration (Click Image to Download)

NASA’s newest capsule, designed to take astronauts deeper into space than ever before, is ready to launch to space for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 4).

The space agency’s new Orion space capsule is scheduled to fly to orbit on an unmanned test flight at 7:05 a.m. EST (1205 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 37 here in Cape Canaveral, Florida Thursday before being recovered in the Pacific Ocean 4.5 hours later. Orion is currently positioned on top of the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket that will deliver it into space on its ambitious test flight, and everything is looking good for launch day.

ORION FLIGHT TEST ANIMATED VIDEO BY NASA

Orion — which was built for NASA by Lockheed Martin — will orbit Earth twice during its test flight, called Exploration Test Flight-1 (EFT-1). On its second orbit, the spacecraft will climb about 3,600 miles (5,793 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, farther than any spacecraft made for humans has flown in more than 40 years.

You can watch the historic Orion flight live on Space.com via NASA TV Thursday at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT).

NASA plans to use the Orion capsule as part of a system that could bring humans to Mars or an asteroid towed into orbit around the moon for the first time.

Source : Space.com

Cool NASA Animation Beautifully Details Every Step of Orion’s First Launch!


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Source : universetoday.com

Video Caption: Animation details NASA’s Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission launching on Dec. 4. 2014. Credit: NASA

It’s not Science Fiction! It’s Not Star Trek!

No. It’s a really, really big NASA Mission! It’s Orion!

In fact, it’s the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion’s First Launch!

Orion is designed to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Even farther into deep space than NASA’s Apollo moon landing which ended more than four decades ago!

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Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett (Click Image to Download)

We are T-MINUS 4 Days and Counting to the inaugural blastoff of Orion as of today, Sunday, November 30, 2014.

Every aspect of the final processing steps now in progress by engineers and technicians from NASA, rocket provider United Launch Alliance, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin is proceeding smoothly and marching towards launch.

Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The two-orbit, four and a half hour Orion EFT-1 flight around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.

Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle that will carry America’s astronauts beyond Earth on voyages venturing farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System.

Europe targets Ariane deal to stay in commercial space race


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  • Meeting on Tuesday expected to agree funding for new rocket
  • Franco-German compromise aims to keep Europe competitive
  • Airbus CEO urges radical shift to counter U.S. rival SpaceX

Weeks after its dramatic coup in landing a probe on a speeding comet, Europe is hoping a last-minute deal to provide funding for the workhorse Ariane rocket will prevent its space ambitions falling back to earth this week.

Anxious to preserve its own access to space, the 20-nation European Space Agency will seek to put aside differences over how to respond to U.S. low-cost rival SpaceX and safeguard thousands of high-tech jobs at ministerial talks on Tuesday.

After two years of wrangling, the outlines of an accord to fund development of a new Ariane 6 satellite launch vehicle appeared to be in place after Germany dropped its insistence on a prior upgrade to the current Ariane 5, officials said.

France is likely in return to back continued European funding for the International Space Station.

“It would be very serious if there is no decision on Dec 2 because Europe would have a competitive delay that it would never manage to reverse,” said Karim Michel Sabbagh, chief executive of Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES.

With the arrival in 2013 of SpaceX, founded by electric car entrepreneur Elon Musk and offering cut-price satellite launches, Ariane needs to lower costs dramatically.

The chief executive of Europe’s largest space contractor Airbus Group, Tom Enders, told Reuters a deal would mark a “new chapter” in the way Europe approaches space.

But he called for a clean break with bureaucratic public-private space industry structures to avoid Europe being “marginalized” by international competition.

“A departure from current ways of working is a precondition for future competitiveness of the European space business”.

Airbus Group, which builds the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, is expected to inaugurate a previously announced joint venture with engine maker Safran on the eve of the talks to help secure Ariane’s future. It will incorporate Arianespace, the launch services firm which operates Europe’s satellite launcher.

CALL FOR REFORM

The new venture is the most serious effort to reorganise Europe’s space industry and is being set up in the hope the one-day ministerial meeting in Luxembourg will back Ariane 6 – ending a compromise two years ago which split potential funding between the upgrade known as Ariane 5ME and an eventual new Ariane 6.

But Europe’s space industry remains heavily influenced by state agencies and industry sources say removing multiple layers of management is key to keeping Europe’s commercial activities competitive.

SpaceX offers launches for around $60 million (50 million euros) compared to 70-90 million euros a shot expected for the Ariane 6 and an average Ariane 5 launch price of 130 million euros ($160 million).

Efficiency comes into play in a cut-throat global commercial market where most companies can only rely on national links when it comes to sensitive defence satellites.

RUSSIA’S ROLE

The European Space Agency, an intergovernmental organisation with 20 member states from across Europe, was founded in 1975 to pool the continent’s finances and brains at a time when the United States and Russia had virtually monopolised space.

But despite Europe’s Ariane capturing 50 percent of the market, a costly system of job distribution and rival design offices has cast a shadow over Europe’s commercial activity even as it basks in scientific success like the Philae comet lander.

Science ministers will also decide on whether the ESA’s participation in the International Space Station will continue beyond 2020, its original shutdown date, and in what way.

The United States earlier this year said it would keep the ISS running until at least 2024, but Russia is looking at going alone and creating its own orbital station. Europe and Russia are also working on a two-mission ExoMars probe shot to Mars.

“(The ISS) shows we can achieve a lot if we all work together and it’s important to highlight that given the tensions building up between Russia and the West,” Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said.

ESA’s budget for 2014 was about 4.1 billion euros ($5.12 billion), and roughly equates to the price of one cinema ticket each year per each European tax payer.

NASA’s budget is $17.6 billion in 2014. The budget gap has made the achievements of Rosetta appear all the more impressive to many observers, but Europe’s space industry is lobbying for a healthy commercial launch activity to support such projects.

ESA plans also include a mission to orbit one of the icy moons of Jupiter and one going to Mercury.

The Horizon 2000 programme, developed in 1984, transformed Europe into a world leader in many areas, including solar physics, cosmology and X-ray Astronomy, said Ken Pounds, former CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

Pounds said he hoped the success of Philae would lead to a virtuous circle “where Europe is proving it can do world-class things, people feel warm about it, and the political class respond to that.”

Source : Reuters

Ripples in Space-Time Could Reveal ‘Strange Stars’


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By looking for ripples in the fabric of space-time, scientists could soon detect “strange stars” — objects made of stuff radically different from the particles that make up ordinary matter, researchers say.

The protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of atoms are made of more basic particles known as quarks. There are six types, or “flavors,” of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm and strange. Each proton or neutron is made of three quarks: Each proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, and each neutron is made of two down quarks and one up quark.

In theory, matter can be made with other flavors of quarks as well. Since the 1970s, scientists have suggested that particles of “strange matter” known as strangelets — made of equal numbers of up, down and strange quarks — could exist. In principle, strange matter should be heavier and more stable than normal matter, and might even be capable of converting ordinary matter it comes in contact with into strange matter. However, lab experiments have not yet created any strange matter, so its existence remains uncertain.

Why Are Quark Stars So Strange?

One place strange matter could naturally be created is inside neutron stars, the remnants of stars that died in catastrophic explosions known as supernovas. Neutron stars are typically small, with diameters of about 12 miles (19 kilometers) or so, but are so dense that they weigh as much as the sun. A chunk of a neutron star the size of a sugar cube can weigh as much as 100 million tons.

Under the extraordinary force of this extreme weight, some of the up and down quarks that make up neutron stars could get converted into strange quarks, leading to strange stars made of strange matter, researchers say.

A strange star that occasionally spurts out strange matter could quickly convert a neutron star orbiting it in a binary system into a strange star as well. Prior research suggests that a neutron star that receives a seed of strange matter from a companion strange star could transition to a strange star in just 1 millisecond to 1 second.

Continue reading Ripples in Space-Time Could Reveal ‘Strange Stars’

Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies


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The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say.

“It’s kind of surprising that we can have life only in 10% of galaxies and only after 5 billion years,” says Brian Thomas, a physicist at Washburn University in Topeka who was not involved in the work. But “my overall impression is that they are probably right” within the uncertainties in a key parameter in the analysis.

WHAT IS GAMMA RAY BURST 

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are flashes of gamma rays associated with extremely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe.Bursts can last from ten milliseconds to several minutes. A typical burst releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire 10-billion-year lifetime. But all observed GRBs have originated from outside the Milky Way galaxy.

Scientists have long mused over whether a gamma ray burst could harm Earth. The bursts were discovered in 1967 by satellites designed to spot nuclear weapons tests and now turn up at a rate of about one a day. They come in two types. Short gamma ray bursts last less than a second or two; they most likely occur when two neutron stars or black holes spiral into each other. Long gamma ray bursts last for tens of seconds and occur when massive stars burn out, collapse, and explode. They are rarer than the short ones but release roughly 100 times as much energy. A long burst can outshine the rest of the universe in gamma rays, which are highly energetic photons.

Continue reading Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies

‘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