Elon Musk Says Sea Landed Falcon 9 Could Relaunch Soon

The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX successfully landed at sea yesterday could be the first of its kind to be relaunched into space revealed Elon Musk at a press conference held by NASA. The first rocket that was landed successfully back in December was kept in storage instead of reused with Musk wanting to keep it as it was the first vehicle they had ever landed and this made it “unique”. As a result, this re-launch will be the true test of the reusability of SpaceX’s rocket and help them gain some ground on Blue Origin, who already launched one of their rockets for the third time.

Firstly, the Falcon 9 must be retrieved, which will be a tricky process in itself and will involve welding the rocket onto the deck of the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You. From there, it will be delivered to port by Sunday and once safely back on land it will be put through a series of engine test fires to see how well they are working. According to Musk, the rocket’s engines will be test fired as many as 10 times in a row, and if everything is working fully, the Falcon 9 could be well on its way to another mission by as soon as May or June. In future, SpaceX hopes to reduce the process of preparing a rocket for relaunch to as little as a couple of weeks.

Musk said that it hadn’t been decided whether this next launch would be for a paying customer or not, saying that “We think it’ll be a paying customer, but we have to have discussions on it.” He was also positive about the amount of reuse the rockets were capable of, with each Falcon 9 potentially being usable for 10 to 20 missions and even up to 100 with minor refurbishments made to it during its lifespan.

Blue Origin’s New Shepherd Rocket Succeeds in Third Landing

The race for reusable spacecraft is on, and the forerunners of this contest are SpaceX and Blue Origin. SpaceX may have landed their rocket from a far higher altitude, but have never achieved (or attempted) a repeat performance. Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s New Shepherd spacecraft has completed its third takeoff and landing using the same vehicle, and this time, it performed something spectacular, a suicide burn landing.

For those who don’t know, a suicide burn landing is when the craft burns its engines at the last possible moment on the return trajectory. By only burning at 100% power as late as possible, it allows the rocket to land in the most efficient manner, as it doesn’t have to fight gravity all the way down and as the atmosphere thickens, it will provide some assistance in arresting the speed of the craft. Of course, should the time to reignite the boosters be wrong, the landing will turn into a spectacular fireball as the rocket collides with the ground.

The success of this landing furthers Blue Origin’s bragging rights in its contest with SpaceX who have not relaunched the Falcon 9 rocket that performed a successful landing and has had a recent series of failures to land, perhaps due to their attempts to do so at sea. Blue Origin are also getting closer and closer to their goal of offering low orbital space trips for tourists with the New Shepherd, with the project still on track to offer its first trips to customers by 2018.

European Mars Mission to Launch on Monday

The first phase of the joint venture between the European Space Agency and Russia, known as ExoMars is expected to be launching on Monday 14th of March. The launch will take place at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a Proton-M rocket responsible for carrying the scientific payload onto a trajectory to Mars.

This mission will be to launch the Trace Gas Orbiter, which will hold an orbit around Mars in order to analyse the trace elements of the Mars’ atmosphere as well as deploying an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli. Despite the initial launch taking only 10 hours to place the TGO on its path to Mars, the satellite will then have to travel for seven months before reaching the red planet.

On the 16th of October, three days before arrival, Schiaparelli will be launched from the TGO, which has the dual duty of carrying scientific instruments to the surface of Mars, but more importantly, to provide data on the module’s performance during entry, descent and touchdown, with no assurance that it will survive the landing on October 19th. The data collected by Schiaparelli will be used to develop the landing module for the ExoMars rover which is expected to launch in 2018.

After detaching Schiaparelli, the TGO will spend almost a year positioning itself into a circular orbit around Mars at a height of 400km. It will then set about cataloguing the gasses of Mars, taking a special interest in those making up less than 1% of the planet’s atmosphere, including methane, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Special interest is placed on methane, which is unexpected to be in Mars’ atmosphere at all which makes the source of the gas all the more useful to discover.

This mission is crucial to understanding more about the red planet, with the results of its analysis bringing us one step closer to putting humans on Mars. Like many space launches recently, this one will be live streamed by the ESA the launch from 8:30 AM GMT, 1 hour ahead of the projected launch time of 9:30 which will doubtlessly prove interesting to any space fanatics out there.

Watch Blue Origin’s Rocket Landing from Vehicle’s POV!

The internet seems to love the videos of the technically amazing Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launching and landing again and we’ve seen quite a few videos of this and enjoyed them all. However, there’s one more angle you won’t have seen yet, as the team have released a point of view video from the rocket that gives you an awesome new look at the landing.

Blue Origin is led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who released a Vine of the second landing attempt which took place on January 22nd (video below). The shot was created using a camera which was mounted on the vehicle’s booster. The video (at the bottom of the this page) is only six seconds long, but keep in mind that this is because it was sped up from its normal speed. In the video, you can see New Shepard descend towards the launch pad, then deploy its legs, before landing a perfect propulsive landing technique.

This is an amazing technical achievement that simply cannot be understated. Not only did they launch the rocket into space and land it safely back on Earth, the most recent launch was the very same rocket, showing that their plans for a reusable rocket is making great progress. The project is destined to be a reusable rocket that can take passengers into sub-orbital space, where they’ll experience four minutes of weightlessness and if that’s not cool enough, they’ve got plans for bigger rockets already in the works.

The team is clearly making great progress, and with Space X and Virgin Galactic, to name but a few, all working on pushing new innovations to the world of space travel, the next few years are going to be extremely exciting.

Check out the video of the Blue Origin New Shepard rocket landing below and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Falcon 9 Sea Landing Meets an Explosive End

It was the first Falcon 9 launch by SpaceX of 2016, as well as the first since their successful rocket landing. It may have been a different rocket than the one that made the previous landing, but nonetheless, SpaceX planned to land this one too. The rocket wasn’t the only difference either, the landing target was a drone ship instead of solid ground. Sadly it wasn’t to be two great successes in a row, and while it was a close call, the rocket tipped over after landing resulting in a fiery end for the spacecraft.

The main objective of the launch was completed successfully, with NASA’s Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite delivered into orbit where it will monitor sea levels and currents. The rocket even managed to return to the platform successfully after sending the second stage off into orbit. Problems only arose once the first stage had set down on the drone ship. Due the instability of the platform and a failure of one of the rocket’s four lockout collets, the landing was short-lived, as it slowly tipped over before exploding spectacularly. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX posted a video on Instagram of the dramatic moment, as well as hinting that the cause of the failure could have been due to a buildup on ice on one of the rocket’s landing legs due to condensation from the fog at launch.

Despite being another failure in the SpaceX campaign to land a rocket on a platform at sea, it is clear that they are learning from their mistakes. Despite ending more dramatically that their other attempts, the landing itself showed that clear progress had been made towards a successful landing. Being able to land a rocket on a ship is important to SpaceX’s campaign for rocket reusability, as it allows for a wider variety of launch locations to be used, without requiring a ground landing site nearby.

A Look At Time Magazines Selected Space Images Of 2015

Long lasting American magazine “Time” has recently announced a selected list of 55 space images that have captured the imagination of readers and experts alike, below is a look at just a few of these amazing and awe-inspiring pics.

Below is a fantastic image that was captured by The Hubble Space Telescope of the Eagle Nebula “Pillars of Creation”, this was published in January 2015 and it is an incredible image, the detail certainly captures the imagination of space for both budding and also veteran astronomers.   

The image below was captured by the New Horizons spacecraft of Pluto in July 2015, “The New Horizons mission is helping NASA understand worlds at the edge of the solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation”.   The image is fantastic and conveys a world that has previously been out of reach for explorers.  

Below is an image that was captured of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket which exploded just after launching from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Oct. 28, 2014. The rocket was carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft filled with NASA cargo, this image was finally released in 2015.  The image feels as if it has just been lifted from a blockbuster movie set or a newly released video game, certainly a spectacular image.

This image below is of Astronaut Scott Kelly who re-entered the International Space Station (ISS) after a space walk, as you do, the image is again spectacular and was released in October 2015. 

The final image was released in December 2015 and is of the Vega rocket that was launched with the aim of testing a variety of methods to detect gravitational waves, the image was released in December 2015. The image certainly conveys the power needed to propel a rocket into space.

Sea Landing Planned for Next SpaceX Rocket Launch

After making their historic rocket landing last year, SpaceX is planning to accomplish another historic feat with a spacecraft, landing it on a platform at sea. It’s something SpaceX have tried twice before in 2015 and failed both times, but undeterred by this, SpaceX must wish to put their record straight with this next mission.

The mission is set to take place on the 17th of January, launching from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is very different from SpaceX’s usual launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As well as attempting the sea landing, the mission’s main objective is to launch NASA’s ocean monitoring satellite, Jason-3.

For this launch, SpaceX will also be using an older, less powerful version of the Falcon 9 than the one that made the ground landing. The vehicle being used is the last of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets, with less thrust and missing some of the reusability features of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust. SpaceX says that a sea landing will be easier than a ground landing for this version of the rocket. Primarily, due to the launch route of rockets, a ground landing required far more distance to be travelled if it is intending to land close to its launch pad. Landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean will allow the weaker rocket to travel a shorter distance and require less fuel to land successfully.

With all eyes on SpaceX after their last rocket landing, the pressure will be on to succeed where their last two rockets fell over and exploded. Being able to land rockets on portable platforms, such as ships would be a major advance towards the ease of space launches as it allows far more freedom of launch locations without needing to set up a landing pad on the ground. Here’s hoping that Elon Musk and his team can make it third time the charm.

China Launches its Most Advanced Disaster Prevention Satellite

2015 has been a good year for the space industry across the world and now China have closed out the year with a landmark launch of their own. Today they successfully launched the Gaofen-4 satellite as part of the country’s high-definition Earth observation project.

Gaofen-4 was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Chinese province of Sichuan. The launch took place on the 29th of December at 00:04AM local time. Carrying the satellite into orbit was a Long March-3B carrier rocket. According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), this is the 222nd launch of a Long March family rocket, which have been in operation since the 1970s and the 19th mission this year.

The successful launch of Gaofen-4 is a significant step in China’s HD Earth observation project, as it has unique capabilities as China’s first geosynchronous orbit HD optical imaging satellite, featuring visible light and infra-red staring optical imager with a common optical system. Gaofen-4 differs greatly from the Gaofen-1 and -2 satellites, which both hold low orbits of 600-700km from the earth, which 4 will orbit as far as 36,000 km away in a geosynchronous orbit. It is due to its advanced imaging systems that it can be placed at a distant orbit, without issue, reportedly being able to spot oil tankers in the sea with its optics. The purpose of the data gathered by Gaofen-4 can be applied in a number of ways, including disaster prediction and monitoring, weather prediction, agriculture monitoring and even national security. This isn’t the end of China’s satellite endeavors either, as Gaofen-4 is only the third satellite of seven planned to be launched by 2020.

We can only hope that the space agencies around the world continue their efforts into 2016, as if they can continue to top 2015, the future is bright for the myriad of space projects.

Image credit to Xinhua/Yue Yubin

SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket

Last night’s Falcon 9 launch was important to SpaceX for a number of reasons. For one, it was the 20th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, but, more importantly, it was its first flight since the incident back in June, where a Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after lifting off on an ISS supply mission. SpaceX wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting their rocket back in the air either, with the further aim of landing the rocket’s first stage intact on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral. This time, SpaceX pulled it off, with both the launch and landing going off without a hitch.

This launch isn’t the first time SpaceX have tried to land a rocket vertically, having made previous attempts to land Falcon 9 rockets on barges, but never quite making the mark. It is, however, a historic event in space technology, with no other rocket ever able to land vertically after an orbital trip. The success also shows SpaceX engineers constant steps to improve their rockets, with this flight (and landing), being the maiden flight of the newest version of the Falcon 9, the v1.1 Full Thrust.

SpaceX believes that the success of this mission is a landmark in making space travel more affordable, as now rockets can be recovered and refurbished, instead of requiring a new unit for each launch. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX took to Twitter to proclaim the success of the launch and landing “Welcome home, baby!” The entire launch and landing were streamed live across the world from the SpaceX website, with people around the world, not just near Cape Canaveral to experience the groundbreaking event.

What this really proves to me is that despite the loss of the Space Shuttle back in 2011, the space industry still has plenty of innovation and improvement to show. Even though some would consider the return to rockets a step backwards from the Shuttle, SpaceX has shown that they can make rockets reusable, the main selling point of the Shuttle. With SpaceX now set up for a manned mission by as soon as 2017, it will be exciting to see how much they can continue to revolutionize the space industry and what long-time aerospace companies, such as Boeing can do to keep up.

Second Commercial Crew Mission for Boeing Ordered by NASA

In a move hopefully stemming from NASA’s revitalized budget for the coming year, NASA has issued Boeing a second flight order as part of the Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two private companies involved in the program, the other being SpaceX. The flight order guarantees a second launch for Boeing following the first order that was issued in May of this year, and a mission order for SpaceX made in November.

The Commercial Crew Program contracts dictate that NASA will order at least 4 flights from the two companies, made 2 or 3 years in advance of the mission’s expected date. With 3 of the 4 flights that NASA is contractually obliged to order now filled, it remains to be seen whether the 4th mission will go to SpaceX, splitting them equally, or whether another will be issued to Boeing. If the results are promising, however, the missions may continue.

The craft that Boeing will use to ferry astronauts into space is their CST-100 Starliner vehicle. While the craft was dropped from NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services second-phase competition, it still remains on track to fulfil its obligations to the Commercial Crew Program. In direct competition is SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which revolves around the recently reinstated Falcon 9 rocket, which, if proven to have fixed the flaws that resulted in a failed supply mission, could pave the way for SpaceX picking up more manned flights.

It is currently unannounced when this new mission will take place, with the previous two mission orders optimistically planned for 2017. The budget now allows for them to keep development on track. With NASA being guaranteed funds for the program going into 2016, new, all-American spacecraft could be making their trips to the ISS within two years.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket to Return to Service this Month

Everything has been looking up for SpaceX recently, being one of the forerunners in the contest for NASA’s contest for their CSR2 contracts to resupply the ISS and NASA ordering the first mission from their new manned rockets by 2017. And now SpaceX have the chance to recover from the one blemish on their record with their Falcon 9 rocket tentatively planned to resume its regular missions to the ISS on the 19th of December.

After a critical failure that caused one of their Falcon 9 rockets to explode shortly after launch while making a routine supply run, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets and their accompanying Dragon cargo pods have been grounded for the last 6 months. At the time, SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk believed that the explosion was caused by an “overpressure event” in the upper-stage liquid oxygen tank of the rocket. Failed launches are far from an anomaly in recent times, with two other ISS supply missions by other companies also failing to launch.

Additionally, the launch should be followed by a ground landing on a pre-leased site at Cape Canaveral, after the last attempt to land at sea on a barge ended in failure. If this launch goes well, it should put SpaceX back on track, which could be just what it needs to win the next round of supply contracts and continue their supply runs for the foreseeable future.

NASA’s Space Launch System Passes Critical Review

New artist rendition of the SLS in burnt orange and white

The most powerful rocket ever built and NASA’s first new human-rated rocket in 40 years, named the Space Launch System (SLS), has had its design pass NASA’s critical design review, meaning that the design has been deemed capable of carrying astronauts into deep space, on budget and on schedule. The next stage for the SLS will be the construction of a test version, which itself will undergo a design certification and testing against the original design, which is estimated to be completed by 2017.

The SLS Block 1, the now certified setup of the SLS, is launched using a pair of solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines which are currently in production, together capable of providing 77-tonnes of lift to the core unit and Orion crew module. The other key part of the SLS allowing it to operate manned missions is the Orion crew vehicle. This module can hold up to 4 crew members and is currently under development by NASA engineers, having passed its own CDR back in August. The SLS test launches could be on-track for test flights in the early 2020s. And after that, the Moon and then Mars by the 2030s are on the cards. Future planned versions of the SLS include the Block 1B, with a more powerful upper stage for deeper space missions and the Block 2, adding two solid or liquid propellant boosters, pushing the lift to over 130-tonnes.

Could the SLS spark a new era of manned space exploration in the near future, or will NASA and its SLS be the sole way for mankind of travel the vastness of space anytime soon?

Image via

Largest Plane on Earth Will Be Airborne as Early as Next Year

Meet Stratolaunch, the largest plane on Earth! Codenamed the “Roc” after the mythical bird of prey, this ‘beast’ looks to be a true king of the sky. In terms of size, it is said to be 65 feet wider than the “Spruce Goose” H-4 Hercules and 95 feet wider than the spaceship-carrying Soviet Antonov An-225, so you can imagine how small you may feel when next to it.

In addition to the size, the “Roc” boasts six Pratt & Whitney jet engines, 28 landing gear wheels and a 385 foot wingspan. But the plane was not made to enter the Guinness record book. Microsoft’s co-founderm Paul Allan, is the guy behind the project and he aims to make the “Roc” the next big alternative to launching rockets into space.

The plane is able to hold a three-stage rocket between its fuselages, as shown in the picture above, which can then be launched at extremely high altitude and detatch its payload into space. So why is this helpful? Well, think about weather conditions. Having to launch a satellite from the edge of Earth’s atmosphere takes away a lot of unwanted variables, so it makes it easier and somewhat safer to launch from up above the clouds.

This is why Stratolaunch was designed so big and massive, weighing in at 1.3 million pounds (including the rocket). But will it do what is expected of it? We won’t know until they do the test runs, which are said to begin as early as next year. If they prove to be a success, Stratolaunch’s first mission is said to be planned for 2018. Until then, here’s a simulation of how the plane and rocket launch should take place. Enjoy!

Thank you Yahoo! for providing us with this information

SpaceX Falcon Explodes on ISS Resupply Mission

Space industry upstart SpaceX has suffered an explosive set back on its latest mission. Setting out to resupply the International Space Station, the Falcon 9 rocket suffered an unrecoverable failure and ended up exploding shortly after launch.  At this point, the exact cause of the failure is not known yet with both SpaceX and NASA working to determine the fault. A preliminary report suggests that an overpressure event compromised the second stage liquid oxygen tank which makes sense as the first stage appeared to keep firing properly until the end.

While not critical, the ISS supply situation is sub-optimal with two other failures already this year from other launchers. Orbital Sciences and Roscosmos both had failures earlier that either destroyed the payload or made it impossible to properly deliver it. Some of the items set to be delivered today were already replacements for those lost on earlier missions.

In a disappointment for Elon Musk fans, the third try at landing the rocket will have to wait. Earlier attempts had failed explosively but many had been hoping the third time would be the charm. Even with this failure though, SpaceX still has a relatively good track record and is already pretty cost effective. Hopefully, SpaceX can take this experience and prepare for the day they launch manned missions.

Airbus unveils Reusable Rocket Engine Program Adeline

European airspace firm Airbus has revealed their answer to reusable rockets. Most of the things humanity has shot in space has been expendable. Cost, reliability and complexity have kept us from reusing our space hardware. Airbus’s Adeline or Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy aims to change that. Using built-in wings and propellers, the engine will detach on a ballistic trajectory and fly back to a runway.

Right now, the most well-known effort to get a reusable rocket is Space X’s Falcon 9. That rocket reserves an amount of fuel and has added complexity to give it the ability to land upright. Adeline on the other hand, should be relatively simpler as it’s more of powered glider and landing conventionally seems it will be much easier. By abandoning the fuel tank as well, the cost of returning the module in terms of fuel consumption should also be decreased. The space shuttle program for instance recovered the shuttle and the booster rockets but let the fuel tank, which is relatively cheaper, burn up in the atmosphere.

Airbus has been working on the project since 2010 and has already spent 15 million euros on the project. However, the priority is still the Ariane 6, pushing Adeline to between 2025 and 2030. As it appears that the Falcon 9 is at the cusp of being recoverable, Space X will be able to offer lower prices fist, cutting costs by over 50%. United Launch Alliance (Boeing-Lockheed) may also be pursuing reusability with their upcoming Vulcan rocket. The biggest challenge for the 3 will be convincing customers to let their expensive payloads be exploded into space by what is essentially second-hand hardware.

North Korea Tests Polaris-1 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile

North Korea is flexing their military muscles again with more missile demonstrations. In the latest test, a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) was fired successfully with Kim Jong Un in attendance. Despite only flying about 150m, the rocket launch does demonstrate the ability for North Korea to launch SLBMs properly. Called the Polaris-1, the missile is suggested to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Currently, only the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and India have SLBM capable submarines.

SLBMs are a greater danger than conventional ballistic missiles due to their flexibility from being mounted on a submarine. By using a submarine platform, the missile itself can be brought much closer to the target, robbing defense systems of critical reaction time. Conventional ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) take about 20 minutes to arrive on target while SLBM can take as little as 6 minutes, far too little time for air defenses to activate. This allows the launcher to strike first to cripple their opponent.

One potential launch platform for the Polaris 1 is a number of Golf II submarines the North Koreans purchased from Russia. While it’s theoretically possible for the Golf II to strike the United States, more likely targets are South Korea and Japan, with the launch coming in from a blind side to surprise defenders. This test will also likely impact South Korea’s decision whether or not to proceed with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system or not. It’s not rocket science to tell that the situation between the Koreas is set to escalate even further as each side buys more rockets.

Kerbal Space Program Trailblazer Builds Astonishing Helicopter Rocket

Innovation tends to be a prerequisite for a successful rocket launch in Kerbal Space Program, but YouTube user BaconSpaceProgram has taken principle to the extreme with the X-Wing Rotary Rocket, a design marvel that puts most other Kerbal spacecraft to shame.

The X-Wing Rotary Rocket recalls the real-life Roton, a rotary rocket prototype built in the early-nineties. The four wings on theKerbal craft, each with a mounted thruster, start at a right-angle to the body of the rocket during launch, causing them to rotate. Once in the air, the wings rotate 90o to give the ship extra forward thrust. Its launch and subsequent flight is a beautiful sight.

Source: Kotaku

SpaceX Releases Amazing Video of Crash Landing

As we previously reported, Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s plan of effectively landing a rocked on a barge went unsuccessful, as the rocket effectively crashed. While Musk initially referred to the crash as perhaps a less exciting “failed landing”, he’s since decided to reveal some images and video of the event itself, and as you’ll see, this was a lot more than a “failed landing”.

While these images speak for themselves, it’s worth pointing out that he initially shared a series of frames from the video on Twitter, before the SpaceX account released the video bellow.

 

An “exciting day!” indeed.

Source: The Verge

SpaceX Successfully Launches Dragon Rocket, Fails to Make Landing

Elon Musk’s astronautics outfit SpaceX conducted a successful rocket launch on Saturday, but the landing left a little to be desired. The Dragon capsule was launched early on Saturday morning, and the rocket made it into orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station. However, the return journey – the landing of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle on an out-to-sea barge – was not as successful.

According to Musk, the force of the impact of the module on the barge caused significant damage to the support equipment onboard. He then speculated that the landing failure may have been caused by a hydraulic fluid leak from one of the module’s fins, affecting its stability.

Source: Ars Technica

NASA Building Largest Rocket of All Time, Will Launch in 2018

NASA are cooking up something big, very big! The simple-named Space Launch System, a 384 feet tall rocket, the biggest ever created. To put this into perspective the Saturn V was just 363 feet and that one took us to the moon. The new rocket will also offer up 20% more thrust using liquid hydrogen and oxygen as fuel.

SLS development is progressing nicely and NASA announced last week that the rocket would make an unmanned test launch in 2018, with a future target of taking humans into orbit around an asteroid, then to mars by the 2030’s, beyond that NASA have aims for Saturn and Jupiter.

Since the retirement of the shuttles NASA has been reliant on booking flights with other nations, should they be able to get this rocket complete on time it will mark a massive milestone for NASA, making them industry leaders for the next generation of space exploration. Now all I need to do is see if I can book a spectator seat for the day the light the engines on this beast!

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/tqt4hmsi4b0[/youtube]

Thank you TheVerge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of TheVerge.

NASA Tests 3D Printed Rocket Parts [Video]

Creating knockoff Lego blocks, a funky key ring or a new phone case are some of the basic features available from your run of the mill consumer 3D printer, but NASA are really pushing the limits of what can be done with the technology by creating 3D printed rocket components.

The 3D printed rocket injectors were successfully tested by NASA at their Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The two injectors mix liquid nitrogen and hydrogen to provide combustion and can reach temperatures of over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit and are capable of generating around 20,000 pounds of thrust.

“We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3-D printing could revolutionize rocket designs,” said Chris Singer, director of Marshall’s Engineering Directorate.

A standard none 3D printed injector would require the creation and assembly of 163 pieces, while the laser melting 3D printing technique required just 2 pieces to be created! That means scientist and engineers saved time making all the extra parts and putting them together, while also meaning a low fail rate by removing so many steps from the injectors construction.

Thank you Time for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Time.

SpaceX Granted Permission to Build Spaceport in Texas

SpaceX have just been given approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to build their massive 56.5 acre spaceport on the Gulf of Mexico, right on the Texas-Mexico border. Of course there is still a lot of work to be done, such as building the damn thing, but it’s a massive step towards making their spaceport a reality.

The FAA issued a Record of Decision, which means that the agency would be willing to grant launch licenses to the company, allowing them to operate out of the new site. The FAA says that it would be likely that any requests from SpaceX to launch as many as 10 of their Falcon 9 rockets and two Falcon Heavy rockets per year from the privately owned site. Meaning they could theoretically have a launch each month.

SpaceX still need approval from several other agencies, including the Texas Department of Transportation complete their site plan, as they’ll be wanting to build new roads, utility lines and more. Yet with the most important part, being allowed to launch rockets, their plans should be pretty easy from here on out.

SpaceX currently launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but the new plan means they’ll be able to play around with their space toys on their own turf and timeline.

Thank you Motherboard for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Motherboard.

Boeing Start Work on 200-foot NASA SLS Rocket

Moving further out in to space is still one of NASAs main goals, but to do so would require new and more up to date rocket technology. Fortunately, Boeing have just been given the green-light and a wad of cash to be begin work on the new Space Launch System (SLS). The new rocket has been designed for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The deal means that Boeing now have $2.8 billion to start building the core stage of the rocket and its avionics systems. The core stage is the largest part of the rocket, it will measure around 200ft tall and play house to huge cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel tanks for the engines.

NASA plan to set aside around $6.8 billion of its funds from fiscal years 2014 through to 2018 for this project, and it’s hoping the SLS will be ready for unmanned missions by 2017. The aim is that the new rocket will be able to carry human cargo to asteroids or Mars by 2021.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

Russian Proton-M Satellite Rocket Crashes, Toxic Fuel Everywhere

Technology isn’t always fun and games as the latest Russian rocket carrying three “GLONASS” navigation satellites came crashing to the ground after a failed take-off at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. During take off the rocket swerved to one side and in an attempt to correct itself ended up plummeting to the ground and disintegrating in mid air.

Footage of the crash, shown below, has spread like wildfire across Russia and Central Asia as there is fear of an ecological crisis as the rocket crashed with 600 tons of toxic propellants on board. While there have been no human fatalities there have certainly been economic ones as the “Rossiya24 TV Channel” suggests the failed crash will cost the Russian Space Industry somewhere around $200 million.

The entire area in the vicinity of the crash has been evacuated and the Kazakhstan emergency mninistry has warned of an ecological threat to the surrounding area.

Strangely though, this accident isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Russian Space agency sources stated that:

“We’ve had similar accidents at Baikonur before. After the area is cleaned up, launches will resume – in two-three months,”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ5__1PPgNQ[/youtube]

Image courtesy of Spaceflight101 (YouTube)