Tag Archives: spaceflight

Orbital Sciences has renamed its Taurus II rocket the Antares rocket

Orbital Sciences has renamed its Taurus II rocket the Antares rocket.

To clear up any marketplace confusion and provide clear differentiation between this new launch vehicle and our Taurus XL rocket. Antares is significantly different – it serves the medium-class space launch market and its liquid fuel first stage technology is major departure from previous Orbital space launch vehicles. In addition, a project of this scale and significance deserves its own name like Orbital’s Pegasus®, Taurus® and Minotaur rocket programs that have come before it.

I think they have also realized they needed to distinguish Antares from the Taurus XL rocket’s recent problems, failing twice to put NASA climate satellites into orbit.

NASA has announced a February 7 launch date for SpaceX’s next test flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon

NASA has announced a February 7 launch date for SpaceX’s next test flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon to ISS.

They also have approved allowing Dragon to do a test berth with ISS on this flight, assuming the first test approach goes well.

An audit by NASA’s inspector general finds that NASA can’t keep track of its moon rocks

An audit by NASA’s inspector general has found that NASA can’t keep track of its moon rocks.

In a report issued by the agency’s Inspector General on Thursday, NASA concedes that more than 500 pieces of moon rocks, meteorites, comet chunks and other space material were stolen or have been missing since 1970. That includes 218 moon samples that were stolen and later returned and about two dozen moon rocks and chunks of lunar soil that were reported lost last year.

Uganda’s suborbital spaceplane, under construction in the backyard of the designer’s mother

Uganda’s space program: the construction of its first aircraft — in the backyard of the designer’s mother’s home — to be followed by a space shuttle! With pictures and video.

At first glance this looks absurd and a pipe dream. However, stranger things have happened. I wish them all the success in the world.

Over-the-counter osteoporosis drug appears to keep astronauts from losing bone density on long space flights

Big news: New research on ISS now shows that the standard over-the-counter osteoporosis drugs used by millions on Earth appears to keep astronauts from losing bone density during long space flights.

Beginning in 2009, the group administered the drug to five long-stay astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), including Koichi Wakata, 48, and Soichi Noguchi, 46. The five took the drug — an over-the-counter bisphosphonate used to treat osteoporosis — once a week starting three weeks before they lifted off until they returned to Earth. The researchers then monitored the astronauts’ bone mass over time and compared the results to those for 14 astronauts that had never taken the drug.

The results showed that the 14 who had never taken the drug had average bone density loss of 7 percent in the femur, and 5 percent in the hip bone. The five astronauts on bisphosphonate, however, only had average bone density loss in the femur of 1 percent, and even a 3 percent increase in the hip bone. Calcium levels in their urine, which rise the more bone mass is lost, were also very low.

If these results hold up, they might very well solve one of the biggest challenges faced by any interplanetary traveler. Up until now, bone loss during long weightless missions never seemed to average less than 0.5 percent per month. After spending three years going to and from Mars, an astronaut could thus lose about almost 20 percent of their bone mass in their weight-bearing bones, and would probably be unable to return to Earth.

Thus, a mission to Mars seemed impossible, unless we could build a ship with some form of artificial gravity, an engineering challenge we don’t yet have the capability to achieve.

If these already tested drugs can eliminate this problem, then the solar system is finally open to us all. All that has to happen now is to do some one to two year manned missions on ISS to test the drugs effectiveness for these long periods of weightlessness.

Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17

The solar sail Nanosail-D has sailed home, burning up in the atmosphere on September 17.

The flight phase of the mission successfully demonstrated a deorbit capability that could potentially be used to bring down decommissioned satellites and space debris by re-entering and totally burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The team continues to analyze the orbital data to determine how future satellites can use this new technology.

The concept being tested appears to use a solar sail as a navigating tool for guiding defunct satellites back into the atmosphere.

The 1960s space race: The US orbits its first living animal, Enos the chimpanzee

An evening pause: Fifty years ago today the United States succeeded for the first time in placing a living animal in orbit, four years after the Soviet’s launched the dog Laika into space. On November 29, 1961 NASA orbited a chimpanzee named Enos as a dress rehearsal for John Glenn’s orbital flight, then scheduled for early in 1962. See this article for some details about Enos difficult flight.

Since the flights of Gagarin, Titov, Shepard, and Grissom earlier in 1961, the 1960s space race had seemed in abeyance as NASA geared up for its first orbital manned mission, while the Soviets were typically silent about their plans. Yet, for those like myself who were alive at that time, the suspense never abated. What would happen next? Could the U.S. beat the Russians to the Moon? Only time would tell.

Building Boeing’s CST-100 manned capsule, the smart way

Building Boeing’s CST-100 manned capsule, the smart way.

From pressure seals used on the international space station to rendezvous and docking sensors developed for the Pentagon’s Orbital Express experiment, Boeing is drawing heavily on heritage space and aviation programs for its proposed CST-100 commercial human spacecraft.

Cheaper also.

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday

A preview of the new Mars unmanned rover Curiousity, set for launch on Saturday. This is the part of its mission that scares me the most:

The final stages of the entry, descent and landing sequence will be especially tense as the rover, dubbed Curiosity in a student naming contest, is gently lowered to the surface on cables suspended from a rocket-powered “sky crane” making its debut flight. Too large to use airbags like those that cushioned NASA’s Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity rovers, Curiosity will rely instead on landing rockets positioned above the rover, avoiding the challenge of coming up with a reliable way to get a one-ton vehicle off of an elevated, possibly tilted lander. Instead, Curiosity will be set down on its six 20-inch-wide wheels, ready to roll.

If it works.

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