NASA Begin Drop Tests of Orion Crew Module

The Orion module’s first mission may be five years away at the earliest, but this hasn’t stopped NASA from proceeding with its development well in advance. NASA’s impact tests for the module have already begun using a mockup of the spacecraft carrying a dummy crew aboard. This series of tests allows the engineers working on the craft to analyse how human bodies would be affected when the module lands in the ocean on its return to Earth.

Engineers at the Langley Research Center have been responsible for running the tests, where the module mockup has been dropped into a 20-foot deep Hydro Impact Basin from a height of 16-feet in the first of the tests. Contained within the capsule are a pair of test dummies, a 105-pound woman and a 220-pound man, which will allow the tests to show the effects of the landing on the different body types of those that could be aboard.

This is the first of a series of nine planned tests, with the remainder of the tests set to measure how the capsule holds up in a number of scenarios that could affect the capsule’s descent and landing. Future tests are set to include simulated factors such as wind and wave conditions as well as drops from different heights to see how it holds up. All of this data will then be fed back into the development of Orion in order to ensure that the capsule is safe for the astronauts that will ride it in future.

Orion is intended to be utilized on deep space trips to Mars and beyond along with the SLS rocket, which may be enough to kick-start a new era of manned space exploration within the next decade.

Another Near Miss as Drone Flies Close to Jet at Heathrow

Drones are a wonderful piece of technology and the more we advance them the more we can do. I mean, they have created a drone that works both in the air and even underwater. How can we not find uses for drones that can be deployed at sea, both above and below the sea line? The problem being is that a select few are ruining the experience for everybody, with drones being used and damaging everything from the Empire State building to cutting out power for residents in LA.  The most recent in a long stream of incidents is a near encounter when a drone flew within 30 feet of a jet that was landing at Heathrow.

The Airbus A319 was landing at Heathrow Airport in September while it was on approach to land. The pilot reported that it went so close as 25 yards left of the cockpit and only 20 feet above. The incident was reported to the police and classed as a meeting risk category A, the highest risk that two objects meet short of actually colliding. The worrying part is that the drone was flying at 500 feet, while the legal limit for drones in the UK is 400 feet, with anything beyond that being considered controlled airspace.

This isn’t the first time that a drone has almost collided with an airplane, and given the risk to both the crew and passengers of the craft and those on the ground, drone pilots performing these kind of stunts, putting others at risk, are the reason that the FAA has pushed for drone registration in the USA.

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.

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.

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.