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.

NASA to Get Budget Boost For 2016

The continuously underfunded space agency, NASA, finally got some good news on the financial front today. As part of their budget proposal for 2016, Congress included a considerable budget increase for NASA, in excess of what they had requested.

The total sum that would be budgeted for NASA is the sizable sum of $19.3 billion. A number in excess of the Obama administration’s promise of $18.5 billion, which is an increase of $1.27 billion from the sum provided to them in 2015. The financial windfall couldn’t come at a better time for NASA either. For starters, it provides $1.24 billion for the Commercial Crew Program alone. With NASA having recently ordered launches from both of the companies involved in the program for as soon as 2017, with a report delivered with the spending bill making it clear to NASA that the new funds should be put towards keeping the program on track, with the natural assumption being that Congress wish to reduce their dependency on Russia to access the ISS.

The Commercial Crew Program is not the only thing that NASA needs budgeting, either. NASA are planning for $2 billion to go towards the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is intended to make manned trips into deep space or to Mars. And with many different configurations of the SLS planned, its budget requirements make sense. The SLS’ crew capsule, Orion, is also receiving a large sum of money, after flagging due to financial troubles and having its first test flight pushed back by two years.

As well as the big projects, other NASA agencies that will benefit from the budget increase are the Science division, receiving $300 million more than 2015, including $175 million to be put towards a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s icy moons. It would require specialist modules (as well as to be launched from the SLS), and the timeline is tight, with a mission to take place no later than 2022.

It seems like Congress has finally taken note of NASA’s recent budget complaints, and this seems to be the first step towards making the next decade a very interesting time for space researchers and enthusiasts alike.

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.

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.

World’s First 3D Printed Metal Gun

Solid Concepts has produced the worlds first 3D printed Metal Gun. Not to be confused with the Liberator, which is printable on conventional plastic 3D printers. Solid Concepts users industrial grade 3D printers, which are able to produce metal products that need little to no machining. Solid Concepts isn’t getting into weapons manufacturing, but rather wanted to prove that DMLS was able to perform well for real world applications. In doing so they found blueprints for a 1911, which is public domain, and it was off to the printers.

Solid Concepts, Inc. is based out of California, though they have six facilities in the United States. Their Austin, Texas office is their only office that holds a federal firearms license. The company primary focuses on custom manufacturing, which includes engineering, manufacturing, production and even prototyping. They are able to produce many different products from precision equipment such as specialized equipment to products transportation parts, they are even involved in aerospace and unmanned systems.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7ZYKMBDm4M[/youtube]

In order to prove that Direct Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS is able to perform well in the real world. Solid Concepts ventured to prove that DMLS is strong enough, and accurate enough for real world applications. The 1911 sidearm was first introduced, as its name implies, and is still used today. The firearm is a single-action pistol, which has semi-automatic functionality, and is magazine fed. Every time it is fired, pressures within the chamber rise above 20,000 psi. Nearly all of the parts were produced via DMLS and consists of 33 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 components. It was then decked with a selective laser sintered carbon fiber filled nylon hand grip.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgQvqVq-SQU[/youtube]

DMLS is able to take 3D CAD data and split it into sections in order to produce a product then using powdered metal or alloy materials. The process of creating a product with the DMLS is fairly simple sounding. First they print with a metal powder, lower it surround it by sand, heat it up, thus creating a solid piece of metal. DMLS is highly accurate, and it is able to reproduce designs quickly.

Currently this technology is not available to just anyone, costing more than $500,000. These printers are being used in a professional environment, so I highly doubt that we need to worry about finding these on our streets in the hands of thugs.

I want to thank TechCruch for proving us with this awesome information and Solid Concepts for providing us with all of the data that we needed.