Tag Archives: spaceflight

Progress freighter launch fails

The launch of a Progress freighter to ISS today has failed, with the freighter ending up crashing into Siberia.

This is very bad news for the station. Everyone in the space industry knows that with the shuttle gone, it will be a challenge to maintain supplies to the station’s the six-person crew. Losing just one supply ship will strain the station’s supplies, if not now in the long run for sure.

Worse, this is the first launch failure of the Soyuz rocket that puts both Progress and manned Soyuz capsule into orbit in more than eleven years. The next manned crew is scheduled for launch on September 21. Whether this failure will delay that launch remains unknown.

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Bigelow in negotiations to supply privately-built modules to ISS

Bigelow Aerospace is in negotiations with both NASA and Japan to supply ISS with privately-built modules

The module could be rented out as an ISS storage unit, making the station less dependent on frequent resupply flights, says Hiroshi Kikuchi of JAMSS. To show that the modules are capable of safe, crewed operation, Bigelow is also negotiating with NASA to attach one to a US-owned ISS module.

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NASA announces awards for three technology demonstration space missions

NASA has announced three awards for technology demonstration space missions, all set to fly within four years. More details here.

The three missions are:

  • A solar sail demonstration mission, flying a sail 38 by 38 meter sail.
  • A demonstration of in-space laser/optical communications technologies.
  • The use of a high-precision atomic clock in space.

I especially like the solar sail mission because of its long range possibilities, though the other technologies would probably be put to practical use more quickly.

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The new commercial space companies question NASA contracting policies

The new commercial space companies are challenging NASA’s new contracting policy.

The article covers the conflict that I described in this post, whereby NASA is abandoning the more flexible contracting approach used for the commercial cargo contracts of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences and going instead with the contracting system it used for all past NASA subcontracts.

The article is errs badly when it calls the new contracting approach that NASA wants to use “non-traditional.” It is instead the way NASA has been doing things for decades, whereby the agency takes full control of everything and requires contractors to fill out so much paperwork that the costs double and triple.

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Space Boat: A Nautical Mission to an Alien Sea

The Titan Mare Explorer: A nautical mission to an alien sea.

If [NASA] green-lights the mission, the capsule will lift off in 2016. By 2023, TiME will be about 800 million miles away in Titan’s north-polar region, home to its biggest lakes and seas. The capsule will take photographs, collect meteorological data, measure depth, and analyze samples. TiME will have no means of propulsion once it is on Titan, so it will float, carried by breezes across the sea’s surface. Then, by the mid-2020s, it will enter a decade-long winter of darkness as the moon’s orbit takes it to the dark side of Saturn, away from the sun and communication. It won’t have a line of sight to Earth to beam back more data until 2035.

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American manned space: dependent on the Russians in more ways than you think

American manned space: dependent on the Russians in more ways than you think.

As commentators from around the country gnash their teeth at U.S. dependence upon Russia to move cargo and astronauts to the mostly U.S. built/funded International Space Station (ISS), they’ve missed the bigger boat: With one exception, all the commercial spaceflight offerings currently in the works have Soviet or Russian engines as a key part of the rockets involved.

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According to Russian space officials, the next Soyuz tourist flight will be in 2014

According to Russian space officials today, the next Soyuz tourist flight to ISS will be in 2014.

The article above contradicts yesterday’s story where the head of the Russian space agency suggested that Russia is going to shift its focus from manned space. I suspect both stories reflect an underlying political battle going on within the Russian government.

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Some questions about today’s hypersonic test flight

Here are some additional stories describing today’s test flight of the Hypersonic Test Vehicle.

I have several questions, and no answers:

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Lack of U.S. government interest in commercial refueling mission causes problems

A lack of U.S. government interest in a privately designed satellite refueling technology has caused the company to pull back its plans.

MDA had signed a contract with the communications satellite company Intelsat to refuel some of its orbiting satellites, but needed additional customers to make a go of it. It had hoped the U.S. Defense Department would show interest, but they have not.

This is exactly where the government should be investing its capital, and that it is not tells us a lot about the real lack of sincerity behind the Obama administration’s claims that it wants to encourage private space. I also suspect that the turf war with satellite companies and defense contractors helped discourage Defense Department interest.

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A look at the more than 450 tourists who have paid a deposit to Virgin Galactic to fly in space

A look at the more than 450 tourists who have paid a deposit to Virgin Galactic to fly in space.

They include comedian Russell Brand, Dallas star Victoria Principal, film director Bryan Singer, designer Philippe Starck, scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, property developers the Candy brothers, and PayPal developer Elon Musk.

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The state of the new commercial manned space efforts

Chris Bergin at NASAspaceflight.com today wrote a report on the four companies NASA is subsidizing to build manned capsules. The status of each company tells us something of whether they can eventually provide the United States with a replacement for the shuttle, and do it soon. Let’s take a look at each.
» Read more

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Dawn begins science operations in orbit around Vesta

The Dawn science team today released what they are calling “the first full-frame image” of Vesta. The image is shown below the fold.

The picture was taken from 3,200 miles, and shows a pockmarked irregularly shaped world. While many features that resemble the Moon (the craters, the rays radiating out from those craters), that Vesta itself is not spherical makes it very much unlike the Moon. It is probably going to take scientists several months at least to decipher the data they are getting and come up with some concrete conclusions about this strange dwarf planet.
» Read more

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The Painted Desert of Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released this picture yesterday of what the Orbiter’s scientists have labeled “The crazy floor of Hellas Basin.” Below you can see a cropped image of only one part of the large higher resolution image. The NASA caption says that the wild colors probably “indicate that diverse minerals are present,” meaning that any settlers of the red planet will probably take a close look at this location with the reasonable hope of finding the resources they need to colonize a planet.

To me, these colors also indicate that this place on Mars would probably one of its most popular tourist spots. As I look at the image my eye instinctively wants to trace out the best trail route along the ridges and down into the gullies in order to give hikers the best view of this colorful terrain.

Hellas Basin

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